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Tunisians debate democratic transition

By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 08/03/11

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Prominent political figures and intellectuals gathered in Tunis on Thursday (March 3rd) for a conference to discuss ways to foster democratic development in post-revolution Tunisia.

"After we realised the first miracle, which is the miracle of revolution, we now need to realise a second miracle, which is the miracle of democracy, freedom and peace," Culture Minister Ezzeddine Bach Chaouch said at the opening of the two-day seminar.

The event was organised by the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Centre (KADEM) in co-operation with the Citizenship Centre for the Promotion of Democracy (Mouwatana).

"All Tunisians agree today on the need to hold elections for appointing a constituent assembly," Bach Chaouch said.

"This means that we've agreed to return to the people to choose their representatives who will express their will by drafting a new constitution that would pave the way for the birth of the second republic," the minister said.

Seminar organisers said that despite the current instability, "the national elites found themselves forced to discuss issues related to election at a time when they were making constitutional demands".

"However, our country lacks an electoral culture in the true sense of the word as a result of the electoral practices of the former regime," they said.

The Tunisian revolution "doesn't belong to anyone and is not a gain made by political parties or ideological currents", Citizenship Centre chief Lazhar Akremi said. "The revolution means building new cities free of poverty, diseases and violence, where people would exercise their rights in full through free and fair election."

The political map is not clear for the time being, according to Kawakibi Centre President Mohsen Marzouk. "The Left is divided into several factions," he said.

"In the midst of that, the Islamic current seems to be the only organised entity. In addition, they have several cadres who were living abroad and returned to Tunisia after acquiring several experiences," Marzouk said. He added that he expects the development of a centre-right faction composed of people opposed to both the radical left and the Islamists.

The election is not a goal for the democratic regime, but is only a tool of it, according to Marzouk. "Elections create a repeated mechanism for peaceful rotation of power. It's some sort of a public auction that is based on two pillars: strong competitors and intelligent voters."

or his part, Slaheddine Jourchi, first deputy of the president of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LTDH) and a member of the fact-finding committee, said that revolutions go through three stages: the first is toppling the head of regime, the second, which is the hardest, is the transitional period, and the third is building an alternative system.

Tunisia is currently marred by the "fragility of all institutions without exception, not only the executive institution, but also the economic and security institutions as well", Jourchi said.

"We find ourselves before old political forces, i.e. the pre-revolution parties, and other new parties that all lack experience in democratic transition," he added. "They also suffer from fragility in the field of democracy." He also warned of a possible polarisation caused by the next election.

At the end of the event, participants called for "adopting a democratic charter that would guarantee the gains of January 14th Revolution and would also guarantee that all sides abide by the principles of human rights".

They also stressed the need to establish an electoral system that would ensure a fair representation of women, young people and minorities. Contributors added that the new system must ensure that weak parties are not marginalised by a single political party in the next constituent assembly.

In addition, participants called for "cancelling the majority system that contradicts democracy and adopting a list system through individual voting in two rounds or a comprehensive list system of voting". They also called for "creating an independent structure to supervise the organisation of the election and for putting an end once and for all to the administration's intervention".

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    ريم حرشاني 2011-3-31

    For me, Tunisia is still in a phase associated with fear and weakness. However, we will get rid of this after realizing the goals of revolution.