Experts question Tunisia election timetable
By Mona Yahia for Magharebia in Tunis – 08/08/12
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali reaffirmed Saturday (August 4th) his government's commitment to holding legislative elections next March, despite questions from jurists who have raised doubt over the date.
The latest comments followed the prime minister's July 25th Republic Day speech in which he confirmed the next election would be held March 20th, 2013. Earlier, however, Jebali had told a delegation from the International Council of the World Social Forum that the next elections would not take place in March.
"I do not think the elections can be held at that time. We are already behind," law professor Hafidha Chkir told Magharebia. "The electoral law should be drafted prior to the elections and a new body for the elections must be formed, in addition to the time required to write a constitution. These tasks require a lot of time."
In response to Jebali concerning the date of March 20th, Kamel Jendoubi, the former election commission chief, said that the vote could not be held at that time.
"During the elections of October 23 we did not have enough time to prepare so we had many breaches," Jendoubi said. "Elections per international standards require from eight to ten months to prepare and there should be monitoring during the next elections of political advertising and finance."
Law professor Chefik Sarsar leaned in the same direction when he called for the return to international standards in order to see how elections are held. In his opinion, elections start from the launch and posting of lists, campaigns, and from there all the way to the ballot and the announcement of results.
The Tunisian opposition does not see in the declaration of Prime Minister Jebali any indication of holding the elections on time and has demanded a clear road map leading to free, fair and transparent elections. The opposition believes that the Constituent Assembly should discuss the date of the elections and announce it officially.
Opposition party Call of Tunisia issued a statement on July 25th that said the road map for the legislative vote was "vague, suffering from stumbling, hesitation and a lack of consensus - the latter which is a precondition for success in order to put Tunisia on the road leading to stability, safety, overall development, and harmony".
However, Mustapha Ben Jafaar, president of the Constituent Assembly, stressed the need to respect the date of drafting the constitution with October 23 as the deadline, the same date as for the elections. Maya Jribi, Secretary-General of the Republican Party, and Ahmed Ibrahim, Secretary-General of the Path Party, have also insisted respecting the stated dates.
Rachid Ghannouchi told reporters July 25th at the Constituent Assembly that he expects the head of the assembly to adhere to the prescribed dates.
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