Sat, Mar 05, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Tunisia to elect assembly in July for constitution

AFP, TUNIS

Refugees who fled the fighting in Libya awake yesterday at Ras Jedir in Tunisia at the frontier with Libya after spending the night outdoors. A major European operation was under way to airlift thousands of people who fled the bloodshed in Libya out of Tunisia.

Photo: AFP

Tunisia will hold an election on July 24 to choose an assembly to write a new post-revolution constitution, the interim president said on Thursday, meeting a key demand of government critics.

“We declare today the start of a new era ... in the framework of a new political system that breaks definitely from the deposed regime,” interim Tunisian President Foued Mebazaa said in a televised address to the nation.

Tunisia’s interim authorities, in power since the ouster in January of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, have faced weeks of protests and calls to move ahead more quickly with democratic reforms.

Despite introducing unprecedented freedoms and pledging elections by mid-July, the interim administration has been heavily criticized.

Interim prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who held the same post under Ben Ali, quit on Sunday after clashes at weekend anti-government demonstrations left five people dead. Two ministers followed him on Monday and three more on Tuesday.

Mebazaa said the July 24 vote would be for the “formation of a national constituent assembly that will develop a new constitution.”

He said the current constitution “does not meet the aspirations of the people after the revolution” and was “an obstacle to transparent elections.”

Mebazza, whose mandate under the current constitution expires on March 15, said that “contrary to rumors” he will remain in his post after the deadline.

“I commit ... to continuing my mission at the expiration of the time limit on March 15,” he said.

‘PUBLIC AUTHORITY’

The president and a new transitional government to be formed by interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi will create a “public authority” that will cease functioning when the constituent assembly is elected, he said.

He said a “special electoral system” would be prepared by a commission before the end of this month to handle the assembly vote.

Mebazaa also called on Tunisians to “get back to work” to rebuild the economy in the wake of Ben Ali’s ouster.

Civil groups welcomed the announcement.

“We will work with other political forces to help the public authority realise its mission. The program is clear,” said Ali Ben Romdhane, deputy secretary-general of the powerful UGTT trade union.

“This is a victory for the people and for the revolution,” said Hamma Hammami, the head of the Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party (PCOT).

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