One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? One Year Since Tunisia's Landmark Elections

Report
October 22, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? One Year Since Tunisia's Landmark Elections

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One year after the landmark elections in October 2011 for the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), considered by international observers as the first free and fair elections for decades, the Tunisian authorities have taken a number of steps towards much-needed reform. On 23 October 2011, Tunisians elected 217 members to the NCA. During its opening session on 22 November, the NCA appointed a new President and Prime Minister who took office in December, and a Speaker for the Assembly, who took office in November.

The NCA was tasked with drafting a new constitution. The 1959 Constitution had been suspended on 23 March 2011 by interim President Fuad Mbazaa pending the election of the NCA, and replaced temporarily with provisional directives on the organization of public authorities. Work on the new constitution was divided between six committees within the NCA. An initial draft was made public in August 2012, but the committees have been unable to meet the one-year deadline for finalizing the text, postponing it until February 2013.

The elections were the direct result of a mass popular uprising that ousted the old regime, triggered protests across the region, and promised greater respect for the rights and freedoms of all Tunisians. However, the very bodies associated with repression, in particular the police, continue to commit human rights violations. Furthermore, commitments made following the uprising have yet to be fulfilled, and there have been some human rights setbacks.