Assembly floor after approving constitution, January 27, 2014. Image credit: Robert Joyce, Tunisia Live
Alexandra Hartmann and Robert Joyce contributed reporting.
Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly voted overwhelmingly Sunday night to adopt a new constitution.
The final draft is the result of meticulous and often contentious negotiations, but was overwhelming approved by assembly members. Over 90 percent of the membership (200 members) voted for it, 4 voted against, and 12 abstained. This support far exceeded the two-thirds majority needed for passage.
The vote followed a floor reading of the entire 146-article document, the product of two years of work.
The NCA was elected in October 2011 for the task of drafting the constitution. Despite initial hopes that the process would be completed in a year, ongoing political disputes and the separate assassinations of two politicians drew it out until today.
The constitution is expected to be signed by the president, the prime minister, and the speaker of the assembly tomorrow. It will replace the 1956 constitution drafted when Tunisia gained its independence from France.
After the floor reading was finished, members drew out several large flags from their seats, waved them, and draped them over their desks. Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar led a commemoration of the two assembly members who had died during the constitution-drafting process. Mohamed Brahmi was assassinated in July 2013, and Mohamed Allouche died suddenly this week.
After heated disputes this month over issues including the role of religion in the constitution, the requirements for who could run for president, and the details of the post-constitution transition, a draft was concluded that could gain broad support.
Zied Laadhari, assembly member and spokesperson for the Islamist Ennahdha party, heralded the compromises that went into the text.
“It’s a result in which everybody can find himself and that’s the most important thing,” he told Tunisia Live. “It’s a mixture of compromise between the different political and social forces in the country and that’s a very good thing.”
The constitution has been seen as very progressive in certain areas.
“We are the first country in the world to put open government in the constitution,” assembly member Mbrouka Mbarek of the Congress for the Republic party told Tunisia Live. She also cited its provisions for the sustainable use of natural resources, and decentralization of government.
Mbarek said the constitution will take some time to roll out.
“We won’t feel the effects right away. We are going to implement it slowly,” she said.
The new constitution is part of a lengthy transition since the January 2011 revolution that saw the ouster of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
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