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2011 Tunisian Constituent Assembly election
An election for a constituent assembly in Tunisia was announced on 3 March 2011[2] and held on 23 October 2011,[3] following the Tunisian revolution. The Assembly had 217 members.[4] It was the first free election held in Tunisia since the country's independence in 1956, as well as the first election in the Arab world held after the start of the Arab Spring.[5]
2011 Tunisian Constituent Assembly election
← 200923 October 20112014 →
All 217 seats to the Constituent Assembly
109 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout49.41%
 
LeaderRached GhannouchiMoncef MarzoukiMohamed Hechmi Hamdi
PartyEnnahdaCPRAridha
Seats won892926
Popular vote1,498,905352,825280,382
Percentage36.97%8.70%6.92%
 
LeaderMustapha Ben JafarMaya Jribi[1]
PartyEttakatolPDP
Seats won2016
Popular vote285,530160,692
Percentage7.04%3.96%
Prime Minister before election
Elected Prime Minister
The result was announced after counting began on 25 October 2011,[6] and Ennahda won a plurality of votes.
Background
Main article: Tunisian revolution
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2011)
Senior party members of the disbanded former ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally(RCD), were banned from standing in the election if they had been active in politics within the last ten years. Originally, the ban would have applied to all former senior party members (spanning 23 years instead of 10), but this was revised after protests by former RCD members.[7]
The election campaign officially started on 1 October 2011.[8]
Electoral system
The voting system allocated seats through proportional representation within various multi-member districts on closed lists based on thresholds set as the quotient of votes cast divided by seats contested. All party lists were required to alternate between male and female candidates.[9]
Domestic districts
Each governorate of Tunisia had a designated number of seats based on population (Tunis, Sfax, and Nabeul, the three largest governorates by population, were split into two electoral districts each). Districts within Tunisia ranged in size from four to ten seats. Each delegate represented approximately 60,000 inhabitants, in a country of 10.5 million.[10]
International districts
Eighteen of the 217 constituent assembly members represented Tunisians abroad. Almost a million Tunisians live abroad, with up to 500,000 Tunisians in France.[11]
Polling for expatriate Tunisians took place in 80 countries around the world. France, Tunisia's former colonial ruler, elected ten representatives; Italy three; Germany one; North America and the rest of Europe two; and other Arab states two.[12]
Around 60,000 Tunisians living in Germany were eligible to vote.[11] In Canada, where around 16,000 Tunisians live, voting took place at the Tunisian embassy in Ottawa, Ontario and the consulate in Montreal, Quebec.[12] In the United States, where an estimated 14,500 Tunisian citizens live, polling took place in Washington, D.C., New York City, Miami, Houston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.[13] In the United Kingdom, there were 4,700 potential voters and voting took place in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Manchester.[12]
Parties
Press conference of the High and Independent Instance for the Elections in Tunisia, with Kamel Jendoubi (center)
Issues
Secularism vs Islamism
The primary topic of discussion during the campaign was the role of secularism and Islam in public life. The repression of Islamists goes back to the days of Habib Bourguiba.[18] After the fall of the Ben Ali government, the ban on the hijab in public institutions was lifted. Though Ennahda sought to establish an Islamic democracy guaranteeing civil freedoms and equality, some secularists[who?] claimed that the party would endanger civil rights if it came to power. Secularists were also alarmed at violent protests by religious conservatives against the broadcast of the film Persepolis (which depicted God, something considered blasphemous in Islam) by Nessma TV. Ennahda condemned the violence, but maintained that the film had "touched everything that is sacred for Tunisians".[19]
Campaign finances
Another major issue was the role of campaign finances. The PDP alleged that Ennahda ran their campaign unfairly because, they claim, Ennahda received money from Gulf billionaires. However, Ennahda denied the claims and asserted that they simply used their money efficiently and fundraised more effectively due to having greater support. They pointed out that their moderate policies had alienated many people in the Gulf, who believed in radical Salafist and Wahhabi ideas. Others alleged that the pro-business PDP and smaller UPL (founded by a Libyan businessman born in Tunisia) had themselves received unfair funding, as they had the support of the rich native business community.[16]
Form of government
As the Constituent Assembly had to decide on a new constitution for Tunisia, the contenders presented different proposals for the configuration of the new democratic system. The Ennahda Movement envisioned a parliamentary model with a strong prime minister, inspired by the United Kingdom or Germany.[20] Conversely, at least the PDP[21] and the CPR[22] favoured a French-style semi-presidential republic.
Observers
There were more than 10,000 domestic and 500 international observers for the election, some members of delegations from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union and the Carter Center.[23]
Polls
Opinion polls showed that a large part of the population had not chosen for whom to vote. Ennahda was consistently placed first, followed by the Progressive Democratic Party, the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties and the Congress for the Republic. In general, parties founded before the revolution scored better than post-revolutionary parties.[24]
In a poll partly sponsored by Al Jazeera, 47% of the respondents said they strongly identified with Islamism, 19% with Arab nationalism and 19% with liberalism. Only 6% felt strongly in favour of communism or socialism, respectively.[25] A poll released by Sigma on 10 September showed that 57% of respondents agreed with a referendum that could set a limit on the duration of the Assembly's mandate, while 18.6% were against; 24.3% did not know.[24]
Although polling results varied from source to source, it was generally believed Ennahda would do well.[26] Most previously undecided voters shifted towards the secular, center-left parties while Ennahda support remained steady. After early September, polls showed a close race between Ennahda and a potential coalition of secular parties.
Poll sourceDate(s) administeredSample sizeAfekAlwatanCPREnnahdaEttajdid/ PDMEttakatolInitiativeMDSPCOTPDPUPLNone
ANSAmed[27]5 March 20111,02129%7.5%12.3%61%
Al Jazeera[25]28 May – 2 June 20111,24421.0%5.0%8.0%54%
Emrhod[28]8 June 20111,0007.3%45.8%11.1%12.5%20.3%51%
Sigma[29]10 June 20111,0140.9%3.1%3.0%16.9%1.0%3.5%0.4%1.5%9.5%59.7%
3C Études[30]7 July 2011?14.3%1.6%0.8%4.7%67%
ISTIS[31]28 August 20112,7170.82%1.62%1.26%22.82%1.37%5.93%1.09%3.14%2.28%8.66%0.83%
Sigma[24]10 September 20112,5130.7%3.1%4.5%22.8%1.3%9.2%3.1%0.8%10.9%1.7%40%
HSS[32]22–24 Sep 20111,0353%3%8%25%2%14%3%3%16%3%21%
Controversies
Date of election
On 8 May 2011, interim prime minister Béji Caïd Essebsi voiced concerns that the election might have to be delayed.[33][34] However, on 18 May 2011, the PM affirmed the election date would be adhered to.[35] On 22 May 2011, the head of the country's independent electoral body Kamel Jendoubi suggested a delay to 16 October 2011, but this was rejected vehemently by the government, and very few of the political parties running in the election were in favour of the postponement.[36] Jendoubi insisted on the delay, stating that he needed more time to prepare electoral lists and renew over 400,000 old identity cards, but the final decision would rest with the interim president.[37]
The delay proved to be a very controversial issue, with the Ennahda Movement withdrawing from the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Revolution until the election date issue was resolved.[38]
The election, originally scheduled for 24 July 2011, was finally postponed to 23 October 2011 on 8 June 2011.[3][39] Despite concerns over the delay, all major parties approved of it, even the Ennahda Movement; other parties approving the new election date included the Progressive Democratic Party, Ettajdid Movement, Al Majd, the Tunisian Workers' Communist Party and the Social Liberal Party.[40]
Tunisians in Canada
In September, the government of Canada declared that it would not allow Tunisia to open polling stations in its territory because it refused to be included in another country's electoral constituency. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called the issue "a matter of Canadian sovereignty".[41] In response to Canada's opposition, Tunisia threatened to refuse to allow Canadian observers to monitor the election,[42] but later reversed its decision and decided to accredit them.[43] On 18 October, an agreement was reached between the two countries to allow Tunisians to cast their vote in Ottawa, at the Tunisian embassy's consular and diplomatic premises, and in Montreal, at the consulate and at a Tunisian community center.[44]
Results
Main article: Results of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly election, 2011
  Ennahda (89)
  CPR (29)
  Popular Petition (26)
  Ettakatol (20)
  PDP (16)
  Initiative (5)
  PDM (5)
  Afek (4)
  PCOT (3)
  Other parties and independents (20)
There were a total of 11,686 candidates on 1,517 lists: 828 running with political parties, 655 running as independents, and 34 running with party coalitions. There were 33 constituencies, with one party list per group per constituency registered. Each governorate elected between four and ten representatives. The total number of parties contesting the election was about 100.[45]
Tunisian expatriates elected their representatives on 20–22 October 2011.[46]
After Kemal Jendoubi, the head of the Electoral Commission, announced the result,[47] Ennahda claimed victory in the polls[48] amidst expectations of getting about 40% of the vote, which would account for 24 of the 27 districts, according to Samir Dilou.[49] Fellow party member Lotfi Zitoun said that: "I think that al-Nahda will win between 50 and 55 per cent of the seats, with the Congress Party for the Republic [sic] (CPR) coming in second place."[48] Reuters quoted Ali Larayedh as saying that Ennahda would consider forming a coalition with both Ettakatol and CPR.[50] The CPR indicated it was also open to this possibility, but would only stay in a coalition with Ennahda as long as civil liberties were not under threat.[51]
PartyVotes%Seats
Ennahda Movement1,498,90536.9789
Congress for the Republic352,8258.7029
Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties285,5307.0420
Popular Petition280,3826.9226
Progressive Democratic Party160,6923.9616
National Destourian Initiative129,2153.195
Democratic Modernist Pole113,0942.795
Afek Tounes76,6431.894
Tunisian Workers' Communist Party60,6201.503
Free Patriotic Union51,5941.271
Democratic Patriots' Movement32,3060.801
People's Movement31,7930.782
Movement of Socialist Democrats22,8420.562
Voice of the Future17,3400.431
Democratic Social Nation Party15,5720.381
New Destour Party15,4590.381
Maghrebin Liberal Party13,0530.321
The Independent12,1720.301
Fulfilment11,5780.291
The Hope10,6810.261
For a Tunisian National Front9,9230.241
Progressive Struggle Party9,3290.231
Justice9,2210.231
Equality and Justice Party7,6190.191
Social Struggle6,6800.161
Cultural Unionist Nation Party5,5810.141
Faith to the Martyrs3,8690.101
Other parties809,38719.970
Total4,053,905100.00217
Valid votes4,053,90594.13
Invalid/blank votes252,6305.87
Total votes4,306,535100.00
Registered voters/turnout8,715,52049.41
Source: ISIE
Reactions
Ennahda's Rachid Ghannouchi said after the victory announcement: "We salute Sidi Bouzid and its sons who launched the spark and we hope that God will have made Mohamed Bouazizi a martyr. We will continue this revolution to realize its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, developing and prosperous in which the rights of God, the Prophet, women, men, the religious and the non-religious are assured because Tunisia is for everyone."
Afek Tounes' had 17 high-level resignations after the election.[why?]
International
The former Iranian foreign minister and leader of the Islamic-nationalist opposition Freedom Movement of Iran Ebrahim Yazdi wrote to Nahda's al-Ghannouchi saying: "In Muslim countries once a set of despots have been overthrown, another set of despots immediately take their place. This is what happened in Iran. Despite struggling for fundamental rights, freedom and self-determination, we Muslims from any nationality lack sufficient experience with democracy. We struggle and overthrow dictators but we don't remove tyranny as a mode of governance and a way of life."[52]
Controversies and violence
Aridha Chaabia had lists in six electoral districts (8 seats total) voided by the electoral commission on the grounds that it violated election rules by campaigning during the purdah period[53] and because of evidence of foreign funding.[47] At the first announcement of the disqualification, Tunisian journalists in the electoral commission's media center burst into applause and sang the Tunisian national anthem, demonstrating a general suspicion of the Aridha Chaabia lists.[54] In reaction, the party's supporters set fire to the mayor's office and a court in Sidi Bouzid and more than 2,000 protesters congregated outside Ennahda's headquarters in the same town and pelted stones at security forces. Hachmi Hamdi then also said that he would withdraw all 19 seats won by the party.[53][55] In reaction to the violence a curfew was imposed from 19:00 on 18 October to 5:00 on 29 October and, though tensions remained, there were no violent incidents reported.[56] However, Aridha Chaabia's other list leaders refused to withdraw; consequently Hamdi reverted his decision and also called on the leaders of the nullified lists to appeal against the decision. The Administrative Court accepted, on Tuesday, the appeals filed by Aridha in the districts of Sidi Bouzid, Sfax-1, Jendouba, Kasserine and Tataouine.[57] Aridha Chaabia thus recovered 7 of its 8 invalidated seats, bringing its total to 26. Following this, however, twelve parliament members of Aridha Chaabia resigned from the party and declared themselves independent members.
There were also other minor violations of the electoral code in regards to publicity on the day of the election itself, but it was decided that those were not serious enough to warrant disqualification of the seats gained.[47]
Analysis
Aridha Chaabia's surprise success[58] was linked to its populist rhetoric and its party leader Mohamed Hechmi Hamdi being the only prominent politician not from the coastal regions (he was born in Sidi Bouzid). The party opted for campaigning in rural regions of Tunisia (particularly the south), which are often ignored by mainstream politicians.[59]
Despite concern amongst the Western media about a possible hindrance to women's rights as a result of Ennahda's plurality,[60] Souad Abdel Rahim of Ennahda said: "The doors are open for women now. We can sense that there has already been an impact. Even in Saudi Arabia, women can now vote," adding that Islamist parties in the Arab world should have a "framework" for women's advancement.[61]
Government formation
Ennahda stated it would propose Hamadi Jebali, the party's secretary-general, as the new PM, but would not field a candidate for president and was open to supporting another party's candidate or the incumbent interim PM.[62] Later, Ennahda named Mustapha Ben Jafar (secretary-general of Ettakatol), Moncef Marzouki (leader of CPR) and Beji Caid Essebsi (the interim PM) as possible candidates for the interim presidential period. Ettatakol stated that it would not nominate Ben Jafar for the position of prime minister, but was still not sure whether to participate in a coalition government[63] with Ennahda and CPR.[64]
On 28 October, Ennahda said a new government could be formed within ten days. Hamadi Jbeli said that talks had already begun on forming a coalition government with the priority agenda being to revive the national economy after the revolution. Rachid Ghannouchi added that Ennahda would honour its undertaking to write a new constitution within a year: "This government will look to establish common grounds through providing a government plan proposal for a year."[65]
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External links
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