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2011-09-20

Tunisian parties sign transition roadmap

By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 20/09/11

Twelve Tunisian political parties last week agreed to a document that outlines their moral obligation to ensure the success of Tunisia's democratic transition.

The main goal of the Declaration of Transition Process, adopted on Thursday (September 15th), is to protect the Constituent Assembly election date against "political manoeuvring", High Commission for the Realisation of Revolutionary Goals chief Iadh Ben Achour said.

"This initiative is also aimed at reassuring the public opinion and putting an end to confusions and fears in the Tunisian society about the powers of the Constituent Assembly and its tenure," he added. "This is in addition to calming the political atmosphere in the country."

The signees include the parties represented in Ben Achour's commission, since it is "impossible to bring all the parties that are currently operating in the scene together", he said. By signing this declaration, the parties unify "their visions to make the democratic process in the country a success", according to the reform panel chief.

Other parties and independents can still join the charter, but its content is only binding to those who sign it. "It is not aimed at bringing back the parties that withdrew from the initiative," he added.

"The transitional period is one of the most difficult stages that countries can go through," Ben Achour said. "Concord is the only option for Tunisia for the time being to successfully pass all the next elections until a new constitution has been drafted to be the main foundation of legitimacy in the country."

"The document is a message that is sure to reach the Tunisian people, to the effect that we differ but then agree, and that it's our responsibility before the people to abide by a roadmap that would reassure everyone," Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) Secretary-General Maya Jribi said.

According to Arab Democratic Avant-Garde Party chief Kheireddine Souabni, "The initiative has answered several questions that were worrying the political class and average citizens in Tunisia".

"This document has also brought the opinions of parties closer and has given us a chance for fair competition," he added.

The initiative shows that "the political scene in the country can produce agreements when needed or in times of tension", according to rights activist Ghazi Ghrairi. "This is encouraging and reassuring for everyone," he said.

However, there were voices of opposition as well. Some see the move as a breach of the principles of the Tunisian revolution.

The document aims to stifle "the political transition process in Tunisia for the longest period possible period", argued journalist and rights defender Chawki Ben Salem.

"Tunisians under Ben Ali's rule are different from today's Tunisians," he added. "What is happening right now is just an attempt to perpetuate the period of vacuum and nothing else."

The signees vowed to uphold the code of ethics issued by the Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) to ensure mutual respect in electoral campaigns and agreed on the need to limit the tenure of the Constituent Assembly to one year. According to the declaration, the current interim president and government will proceed with their duties pending the October 23rd vote, the election of a new president and the formation of a new government.

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