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Tunisia prepares for democratic transition

By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 17/10/11

Tunisia's High Commission for the Realisation of Revolutionary Goals wrapped up its work last week with a final meeting at the Bardo palace, with politicians praising the group for undertaking the arduous work of reform despite difficult circumstances.

"The high commission has succeeded in its mission," interim Tunisian President Foued Mebazaa said at the Thursday (October 13th) meeting. Mebazaa said the commission provided a platform "where Tunisians would meet regardless of their intellectual and political trends and visions to ensure that Tunisia will move from tyranny to freedom and democracy".

The interim president also vowed to hand over power to a democratic government, saying it was part of his "national duty". Constituent Assembly elections are slated for next Sunday (October 23rd).

Mebazaa added that the transfer of power "will take place in a civilised manner worthy of the new Tunisia that aspires to democracy and peaceful rotation of power".

"The main goal now is to build democracy and citizenship, make a break with the remnants of the political and cultural approach that has been used for decades in Tunisia's modern history," according to Yadh Ben Achour, head of the high commission.

Commission Vice Chair Latifa Lakdhar said the group sought to make "freedom a universal sanctified right for everyone, to make the revolution represent a break with all forms of despotism, and to do justice to all those who have been marginalised and excluded, whether individuals, groups, or regions".

"We hope that the logic of reconciliation will prevail in the path that the country is now moving along," she added, noting that "the main goal of the commission boils down to creating legal and legislative tools and to healing the wounds of revolution and its developments, while being vigilant of the pockets of counter revolution."

For his part, Ettajdid Movement Secretary-General Ahmed Ibrahim said the reform group's composition was "consensual, comprising of the parties which were then existing and which were known for their steadfastness against tyranny".

"The commission has also been able to make great achievements, such as the formation of the Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE), the enactment of necessary laws to hold fair and free elections for the first time in the country's history as per a democratic election law, and the approval of gender parity in candidature," Ibrahim said.

But some criticised the group for acting as an unelected parliament. Mourad Goubaa, vice president of the National Free Union, said that "the commission failed in representing the different categories of Tunisian society, and has become like a narrow club of political speculations controlled by about 12 parties only out of 110 legal parties in the political arena now."

"The Commission has relinquished its consultative status and appointed itself as a parliament that enacts laws and casts votes on them in absence of the required legal quorum," he added.

Samir Dilou, a member of the Ennahda Movement political bureau, described the commission as a "workshop for dialogue that discussed a host of issues that will help save time during the work of the Constituent Assembly, such as the issue of identity". The Islamist party walked out of the commission on several occasions over political disputes.

"However, some laws were passed although no legal quorum was available, such as what happened during voting on the association law," he added.

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