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IFES Tunisia Briefing Paper Feb2011 Steps.

IFES Tunisia Briefing Paper Feb2011 Steps.

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Published by Wissem Rekaya

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Published by: Wissem Rekaya on May 16, 2011
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IFES Briefing Paper | February 2011
Elections in Tunisia:Steps towards elections in 2011
Tunisia: Briefing Paper No. 2International Foundation for Electoral Systems
1850 K Street, NW | Fifth Floor | Washington, DC 20006 | www.IFES.org
February 5, 2011
 
Elections in Tunisia: Steps towards elections in 2011Page 1 of 6
Introduction
The momentous events of Tunisia’s ‘Jasmine Revolution’ have moved forward with surprising speed. Theappointment of a new Transitional Government on 24 January followed loud public protest because thenewly formed cabinet remained dominated by political figures from the previous regime and PresidentBen Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally party (the RCD). While Prime Minister Mohammed Gannouchiremains in position, a cabinet reshuffle ensured an increased role for opposition leaders and figureswithout tainted political reputations. Although some protests continue and security incidents remain of concern, there appears to be a greater level of public confidence in the new Transitional Government.Overall, the rapid stabilization of the situation is being described as the ‘new normalcy.’ Fundamentalchanges are apparent: the role of a free and active media, unrestricted access to information andregular industrial action and other group protests enjoying new freedoms of association and expression.Moreover, several steps have been taken to remove representatives of the previous regime fromappointed office, in particular at the Ministry of Interior and in local government.The issue of new elections remains at the forefront of public discussion. In taking office at the head of the new Transitional Government, Prime Minister Ghannouchi made a series of commitments thatelections will take place within six months and under a reformed framework which will include theestablishment of an independent election commission and an invitation for international observation. Apivotal role towards achieving this agenda will be played by the High Commission for Political Reform(HCPR), one of three independent bodies established by the Transitional Government.
1
The HCPR’smandate is to lead and prepare initiatives for constitutional and electoral reform. There appears to bebroad support for the HCPR and its President, Professor Yadh Ben Achour, an academic with a credibleand independent reputation.
2
This briefing paper outlines key developments over the period 24 January to 4 February 2011 related tothe prospects for holding new elections in Tunisia. It is based on the work of an IFES Assessment Teampresent in Tunis since late January. IFES’ preliminary assessment of the broader issues related to theelectoral framework of Tunisia, can be found in: “Elections in Tunisia: key challenges for credible andcompetitive elections” (IFES Briefing Paper, January 25, 2011).In public statements, Professor Achour declared the HCPR will prioritizethe preparation of a new electoral code; in meetings with interlocutors, he indicated a new draft law willaddress many of the areas of concern in the current electoral code. However, there remains uncertaintyon when elections will take place and electoral sequencing, specifically whether presidential electionsshould precede parliamentary elections. Interlocutors have also been debating the steps neededtowards adopting a new Constitution, including the possibility of having a Constituent Assembly toprepare a new framework, followed by a referendum to decide on its adoption.
1
In addition, there is a Fact-finding Commission on Human Rights Abuses focused on the recent events and a Commission oncases of embezzlement and corruption.
2
The HCPR is composed of twelve persons, mostly academics and jurists.
 
IFES Briefing Paper February 2011Page 2 of 6
 
Election Timetable
All stakeholders recognize the constitutional timetable for conducting a presidential election within 60days of the appointment of an interim president is unrealistic given the current circumstances andshould not be adhered to. There is broad consensus that the government’s indications that electionsshould be scheduled within six months (i.e. by July 2011) is justified and that time is needed for thepreparation of a new and reformed political, legal and administrative framework. However, there hasyet to be an official decision on a likely election date; to do so will establish the first formal divergencefrom the current Constitution. When the decision is made, authorities will likely claim that
 force majeure
 applies in the case of any challenge to the constitutionality of the postponement.
3
Nevertheless, there does appear to be the beginnings of frustration that the electoral sequence of thetransitional process remains uncertain, especially in relation to questions over the sequencing of parliamentary elections, as well as elections for a possible Constituent Assembly to prepare a newConstitution and a referendum on whether to adopt the new Constitution. There is also recognition thatthe process of preparing a new election law must be done in a consultative and inclusive manner,meaning the process should not be rushed. The impracticality of holding elections during the summertourist season and the holy month of Ramadan in August has caused some speculation that presidentialelection may have to be scheduled for October 2011 with parliamentary elections held concurrently.Stakeholders have encouraged authorities to ensure transparency when explaining any delay to holdingelections.
Legal Framework for Elections
The HCPR has assumed responsibilities for the “elaboration of texts organizing the elections and theamendment of the electoral code to […] guarantee the organization of free and credible election, inaccordance with the objectives of the people's revolution including freedom, equality, democracy andthe rule of law.”
4
The HCPR President has indicated that the new electoral legislation will be submitted to the TransitionalGovernment and will be adopted by a Governmental or Presidential decreeThe HCPR has indicated that its members will seek to prepare a draft law within sixweeks and, at the same time, undertake open consultations with stakeholders on the issues to beaddressed by a new law followed by public consultation of the new draft text.
5
and will not seek to engagethe current Parliament, which he described as “an authority that has neither credibility nor legitimacy.”
6
 
3
Article 39(2), which provides: “In the event it is impossible to organize elections on a timely basis, due to war or imminentperil, the President’s term of office may be extended by a law adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, until such time whenelections can be organized.”
It is not clear if the Transitional Government considers itself bound to adopt any draft prepared by HCPRor whether it considers itself to have the authority to amend the draft it receives.
4
Statement attributed to Professor Yadh Ben Achour, HCPR President, at a press conference on January 29, 2011; seehttp://www.tunisiaonlinenews.com/news-conference-of-heads-of-national-commissions/ 
5
This mechanism is provided for under Constitution Article 28 “for a set period and for a specific purpose”; the decrees issuedunder Article 28 require eventual ratification by parliament.
6
Ibid.

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