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In 2009, Tunisian presidential and parliamentary elections were held concurrently on 25 October 2009. Indirectelections to the Chamber of Advisors took place in August 2008.
(i) Presidential election
Article 57 of the Constitution requires that, in the case of a vacancy in the presidency, presidential elections shouldbe held within 45 to 60 days of the appointment of an interim president. This means elections should be held by 16March 2011. However, the new government has indicated it agreed to increase the timeframe to six months (i.e.by end of June 2011). A delay of this nature allows for the political and security situation to stabilize and forpolitical groups to prepare their campaigns. In addition, since the bodies responsible for running elections – theMinistry of Interior and local governors – have been at the forefront of public attacks during the recent events, it ispossible that additional time is needed to increase the technical capacity of the aforementioned bodies to preparefor the elections.
The six-month timeframe envisaged by Tunisian stakeholders would not provide for the “systematic overhaul of the country's electoral laws and practices” that some actors are calling for.
Once elected, the President will serve a five-year term of office.Although it is very likely that, in themedium- to long-term, considerable efforts will be needed to bring the Tunisian framework for elections into linewith international standards.
Options for delaying presidential elections
It is unclear how Tunisian authorities will establish grounds for an extra-constitutional delay in holding presidentialelections when there is a vacancy in the presidency. Article 57 of the Constitution places a number of restrictionson the interim president’s powers that appear to prevent him from taking such measures. However, there doesappear to be a possible route under Article 39(2), which provides: “In the event it is impossible to organizeelections on a timely basis, due to war or imminent peril, the President’s term of office may be extended by a lawadopted by the Chamber of Deputies, until such time when elections can be organized.” Thus, it is possible thatpresidential elections could be delayed if there is a parliamentary vote to do so. Alternatively, in circumstanceswith broad consensus by all parties, an extra-constitutional delay may be considered politically acceptable andwould not be challenged in court.
(ii) Parliamentary elections
Members of the Chamber of Deputies serve a five-year term; the next elections for this Chamber are due byOctober 2014. Members of the Chamber of Advisers serve a six-year term. Due to its system of rotationalmembership, some members of the Chamber of Advisers would be due for re-election in August 2011, whileothers face election in August 2014.
The Electoral Code envisages that elections should usually be called no later three months before the end of an elected body’s mandate toallow for preparations to be made.
“Tunisia's future hangs on electoral reform” (Meyer-Resende, O’Grady), The Guardian, January 22, 2009,http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/22/tunisia-electoral-reform-elections-democracy