Follow Us

RSS Feed    Follow on Twitter    Follow on Facebook    YouTube Channel    Vimeo Channel    Tumblr    SoundCloud Channel    iPhone App    iPhone App

Tunisian Constitution: Text and Context

[Tunisian MPs dispute sharia in new constitution. Image by Houda Trabelsi/Magharebia.] [Tunisian MPs dispute sharia in new constitution. Image by Houda Trabelsi/Magharebia.]

On Wednesday, 8 August, al-Chourouq newspaper published an advance copy of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly’s newly released draft constitution to the public and to the Board for Constitutional Coordination, Composition, and Amendment. The completion of this draft, which will replace the former Tunisian constitution originally written in 1959, is a landmark in Tunisia’s post-Ben Ali political landscape, although the extensive political maneuvering over many of the proposed constitution’s contents have contributed to a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the Constituent Assembly’s performance and toward government, in general. The draft constitution is expected to undergo debate in the Constituent Assembly during a general session and then be passed on for ratification in February 2013, with wider elections envisioned for June 2013. This article explains some of the social and historical currents that have informed the writing of the constitution, along with providing an English translation of the text.

The issuing of this draft marks six months since the National Constituent Assembly began working on the constitution on 13 February 2012. Since then, government actions have often run afoul of public confidence. One long-standing Nawaat poll finds that seventy percent of participants describe the performance of the interim government as “mediocre” or “disappointing.” This fits with the overall outlook Tunisians have of the country, as reflected in recent Pew polling, wherein seventy-eight percent of Tunisians “are dissatisfied with the direction of their country” and eighty-three percent “say current economic conditions are bad.” Public confidence has further eroded following the government’s decision to extradite former Libyan PM al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi and its controversial removal of Mustafa Kamel Nabli as governor of the Tunisian Central Bank. Popular disenchantment has manifested in the wake of government ineffectiveness in ensuring the availability of basic foodstuffs for Ramadan, as mounting inflation - and perhaps some degree of profiteering - has driven up costs and led to wide-scale protests in the country’s more economically depressed regions, including the symbolic Sidi Bouzid.

However, individual political luminaries enjoy redoubtable approval ratings well above fifty percent, including major figures such as head of the Ennahda Party, Rached al-Ghannouchi, President of the Government and Ghannouchi acolyte Hamadi Jebali, and President of the Constituent Assembly Moustapha ben Jafar. Only Ennahda - frequently, and erroneously, described as the “ruling” party in Tunisia - enjoys a favorability rating of above fifty percent; the other two members of the beleaguered ruling “Troika” - the Congress Party for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol - lag behind at forty-eight percent and forty-four percent, respectively, with others back further still. The discrepancy between public opinion of national and, by extension, governmental performance post-Ben Ali and that of individual personalities and parties has yet to be explained. Public support of Ennahda’s extensive ranks has remained strong while public confidence in the government, as expressed across the political spectrum, has dwindled precipitously. Widespread distrust between liberals, Islamists, and remaining Ben Ali supporters - established long before the election of the Constituent Assembly - has manifested itself along various social fault-lines, which, in turn, were addressed during the National Constituent Assembly’s writing of the draft constitution. The most serious of these issues remain the role of Islam in public life and women’s rights.

Islam in Public Life

Fear of the intrusion of Islamist social and political influence was a prime factor in Ben Ali’s transition from well-liked reformer to hard-handed autocrat during the 1990s. Since he was ousted, conservative Islamists or those acting under that name have distinguished themselves as powerful actors on the social scene, frequently employing violent censure of artistic expression. During a film festival to “support of Tunisians who have been assaulted, threatened, and denounced by persons who consider their artistic creations offensive to Islam” in June 2011, attendees of the controversial film Ni Allah Ni Maître, directed by Nadia al-Fani and originally titled Laïcite, in cha Allah (“Secularism, God Willing”), were attacked with teargas and physical violence by protestors carrying banners of Hizb al-Tahrir, a prominent pan-national Salafist organization. In October of that year, the most polarizing case of establishing the boundaries between empowering creative expression and establishing protected religious boundaries occurred when Nessma TV broadcasted the Franco-Iranian animated film Persepolis, in which God is portrayed figurativelyThe film, which Nessma TV dubbed into the Tunisian Arabic dialect, aroused large scale anger from conservative circles and the station’s headquarters near downtown Tunis was attacked by hundreds of protestors. The owner of the station, Nabil Karaoui, was initially brought to court, along with several associates. He was charged with blasphemy, but was convicted early in 2012 with a reduced charge of “spreading information that can disturb the public order” and fined 2400 Tunisian dinars (DT) (1500 USD). The case gained international attention and Islamist groups used it as a rallying cry as far afield as Iraq, who claimed that the film’s dissemination was “planned to provoke the feelings of Muslims and mar the name of Islam.” This June, an installation of “Printemps d’Art” exposition in the suburb of La Marsa, which displayed works depicting confrontational attitudes towards religious conservatism, was also subject to attacks. Pictures of the installation surfaced on Facebook, (mis)identifying some of the artists. The photographer and instigator of the attacks, Mohammad-Ali Bouaziz, was later tried and sentenced to two months in prison or a one thousand DT fine (617 USD) for inciting the confrontations, in which one person was killed and a police station was burned and looted. A similar event, though unmotivated by any particular art exhibition, occurred in Sousse, the country’s third-largest city, a few days thereafter.

The inability of police and security forces to defend themselves and respond to spontaneous situations like the one in La Marsa contrasts markedly with their response to more coordinated protest efforts, such as those that occurred on Martyr’s Day in April. Government response to the La Marsa attacks was tepid, with the Ministry of the Interior offering condemnations for “all attacks against that which is sacred, which is the case for some of the works on exhibition.” The liberal parties of the Troika - the aforementioned CPR and Ettakatol - maintained a low profile while Ennahda went on the offensive against the art installment. Claims that religiously motivated individuals did not carry out the attacks but, rather, merely “thugs” cannot be discounted. Ghannouchi’s call for protests denouncing the La Marsa art exposition later that same week clearly drew many Muslims who support Ennahda but not necessarily violence into a position which supports the logic of legitimizing violent attacks in response to the state’s failure to protect the “sacred.”

The importance of “provocation” within this logic, as identified by Tunisia commentator Eric Churchill who writes under the name Kefteji, is undoubtedly a main ingredient for section 1.4 of the draft constitution’s preamble, which states:

The state shall be a defender of religion, tasked with the custody of freedom of conscience, the practice of religious creed, protection of the sacred, and guaranteeing impartiality for the role of worship in circulating speech.

This wording leaves space for religious expression under explicit government protection while simultaneously providing cause for restraining speech deemed as violating the protection afforded to the sacred. One example of such robust freedom permitted to the sacred would be Ghannouchi’s recent claim that those who oppose Ennahda are “enemies of Islam.” President of the Republic Moncef al-Marzouki, a renowned human rights defender during the Ben Ali era, has previously urged government leaders to end such instances of takfīr, or accusations attacking individuals’ personal religious positions. Whether speech such as takfīr constitutes “worship” will surely be a question for courts to decide, but it is clear that state-structured “impartiality” toward particular modes of worship and their discourse is dubious. Likewise, the legal proceedings against Nessma TV executive Karaoui, the supposedly “blasphemous” content of his network’s broadcast of Persepolis, the comparatively weak prosecution of both Mohammed-Ali Bouaziz, and those who attacked the screening of Ni Allah ni Maître because of the “provocative” nature of the offending artworks show a pronounced tentativeness toward guaranteeing speech without prior restraint, as provided for by section 2.26 of the draft constitution: “The practice of Prior Restraint over these Freedoms shall not be allowed in any form.”

Ennahda has recently advanced the formal criminalization of “insulting or mocking the sacredness of religion” in the National Constituent Assembly. Punishments include a prison sentence of two years or a two thousand DT (1236 USD) fine, slightly less than the sentence handed down to Karaoui. Examples of the sacred under the law include “God, His prophets, sacred books, the sunna [example] of his final prophet Muhammad, the Kaʿba, mosques, churches, and synagogues.” Prior to both the advancement of this law and the completion of the draft constitution, a sentence was handed down in a case involving the “mocking” of the Prophet Muhammad in the case of Jabeur Mejri. The advancement of this law, especially in the wake of the Mejri case, clearly shows both the societal and legal tension over the place of religion in the Tunisian public sphere and the extent to which one may voice their opinion of sacred “objects.” While the state is tasked with defending religion and the sacred, such strict definition of their constituent parts may infringe upon constitutional rights to unimpeded freedom of expression.

In the political realm, Islamist involvement in government draws on strong support from a variety of ideological standpoints. Ennahda is repeatedly invoked as the face of “moderate political Islam” in the American and British media, but party members have at times taken to championing more immoderate policies. The Ennahda leadership - which has been subjected to extended time in prison and, in Ghannouchi’s case, exile - has stressed the importance of “national reconciliation,” though only after various hardline party talking points flopped. Those talking points included: Ennahda spokeswoman Souad Ibrahim’s contention that single mothers are a “disgrace” to the country, a failed attempt to establish a Saudi-style Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, and an infamous ad-lib delivered by Jebali about the implementation of a “Sixth Caliphate.”

Outside Ennahda’s purview, Salafi-influenced groups have become particularly active. Although their numbers are estimated to be around ten thousand in a country of more than ten million, reports of their extralegal activity have become very prominent. The most shocking of these reports was the case of the 2011 establishment of a so-called “caliphate” of Sejnane, a sleepy town in the country’s politically and economically marginalized northwest. The movement to implement sharia within the town was led by Hichem Merchegui, an al-Qaeda linked interloper who had been sentenced to a 104-year prison term under Ben Ali’s strident anti-Islamist measures and released under the general amnesty announced after the latter’s ouster. The revelation of conditions in Sejnane were startling, and Tunisia’s liberals coined the phrase “Sejnanistan” to refer to particular areas where attempts to impose conservative Islamic interpretations of dress and comportment are especially strong. While this appropriation reflects current events, it also raises questions about Tunisia’s social and economic classes, reinforcing the biases of those from coastal regions toward the interior, who are seen as less educated and socially polished. The northern regions, especially the governorate of Jendouba, are home to large amounts of Salafi activity, some of which includes violent attacks on bars and, worryingly, weapons caches. But some activity has also been charitable in the wake of heavy snows that blanketed the region during the 2011 winter.

Not all Salafi groups have attempted to circumvent legal channels, and some have actively embraced the opportunity to advance their goals through legislation. Various conservative religious groups have rallied in large numbers in major municipal centers to express their support for the increased Islamization of the state throughout Tunisia by means of implementing sharia. In a large rally in May in the historic city of Kairouan, the first Arab-founded city in what is now Tunisia and the country’s fifth-largest city by population, members of the group Anṣār al-Sharia and its leader Seif Allah Ben Hassine, better known as Abu Yiadh, convened their second congress to “advocate for the application of God’s sharia in [their] country.” The choice of Kairouan is particularly significant given the city’s religious standing and its historical opposition to state-imposed secularism. The town famously refused to inaugurate a Habib Bourguiba Avenue long after it had become de rigeur in Tunisia to do so because of the aggressively secular president’s antagonism toward Islamists, including his political opponent Saleh Ben Youssef. Abu Yiadh’s commitment to working within legal frameworks has since weakened, as evidenced by his calling for a jihad against the Tunisian government.  Major rallies calling for the implementation of sharia have also been held in the capital outside the National Constituent Assembly’s chambers and in Sfax, Tunisia’s second largest city, although the explicitness of Salafist demonstrators’ calls for implementing sharia is unusually vague in reports from other cities. In late March, a conference was convened in which Islamic scholars from the Tunisian Board for Sharia Sciences called for the Constituent Assembly to approve of sharia as “a primary source” of legislation, but stopped short of calling for it to be the “sole source.” In fact, the most famous example of an Islamist calling for implementation of sharia in Tunisia came not from a Tunisian, but from the Egyptian Ayman al- Zawahari, head of al-Qaida.

Attempts to implement sharia through the constitution in sweeping terms, then, enjoyed little explicit public support amongst Tunisians, despite outsized media coverage. Within the framework of writing the constitution, the Salafi-influenced Reform Front - Tunisia’s only Salafist political party - was the sole legislative voice pushing to designate sharia as “the sole source of legislation.” Much of the conversation was built upon the first article of the 1959 constitution, wherein it was stated “Islam is the Religion of State,” but kept silent on the role of sharia in drafting legislation. These circumstances are analogous to the case in Egypt, where the Salafi Nour Party pushed for a wording that made sharia, and not just its principles, the ultimate measure in drafting legislation. The push to more narrowly define state legislative processes through the implementation of sharia is fraught with difficulty, due especially to the variegated nature of sharia itself. Consensus even amongst religious conservatives in the National Constituent Assembly proved elusive. Ennahda eventually declined to pursue the desired wording, leaving Article 1.1 largely unchanged from its 1959 composition and potentially causing a rift between Ennahda and more conservative political actors. The text in the proposed Article 1.1 of the draft constitution is as follows: "Tunisia is a free state, independent, possessing sovereignty. Islam is its religion, Arabic its language, and the republic its system of government."

The explicit mention of sharia in Article 1.1 is absent, however, numerous references to the Muslim and Arab loyalties of Tunisia, as favored by conservative groups, were inserted into the preamble of the draft constitution:

Based upon the essentials of its Arabic-Muslim Identity...
Affirming our cultural and civilizational belonging to the community of muslims...
Standing victorious [...] for liberation and justice Movements - at their head, the Palestinian Liberation Movement.

According to Section 9.3, these characterizations are not subject to constitutional amendment: "It shall not be possible through constitutional amendment to deviate from Islam in considering it the religion of state."

The characterization of the Tunisian state in such stark terms has angered some in Amazigh circles for the exclusivity granted to the Arabic character of the country. A case could be made that such a characterization conflicts with the text of proposed Article 1.32: "The state shall guarantee cultural rights to every citizen."

Women’s Status

Scholars Jane Tchaïcha and Khedija Arfaoui have given a comprehensive treatment of the history of women’s rights in Tunisia, dating back to the Roman era. Tunisia has long been hailed as a relative bastion of women’s rights in the Arab World, mainly due to the implementation of the Personal Status Code by President Habib Bourguiba in 1957.

The Personal Status Code, according to the translation by George Sfeir:

...applies to Muslim Tunisians only, the personal status of Christians being regulated by French law, while Jewish citizens of Tunisia have their own code [...] Polygamy is abolished; divorces may only take place in courts and full consent of both parties is a pre-requisite to marriage. On the other hand, the Islamic law of inheritance is preserved.

For the secular state, such policies were seen as a priority and resulted in the rapid development of society and opportunity. From Tchaïcha and Arfaoui:

From 1956 to the mid-1970s, Tunisian girls and women increasingly took advantage of their new role (Arfaoui 2007). They pursued their education and they entered the workforce in record numbers, birth rates declined and a growing middle class emerged. If hardly less than  fiver percent of children were enrolled in primary school in 1956, by 2003, this figure increased to ninety-eight percent for both boys and girls; moreover, adult education rose from sixteen percent in 1960 to seventy-four percent in 2004. Presently, the number of female students exceeds that of male students in higher education, representing fifty-nine percent of total tertiary education enrollment in Tunisia in 2008. (p. 218)

Fears that not enough had been done to promote the preservation of women’s gains in the wake of Ben Ali’s ousting quickly attached themselves to the specter of Islamist attempts to defeat the Personal Status Code. One Gallup poll, After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion, and Rebuilding, ominously declared, “The rise of Islamist political parties in Tunisia and Egypt has many secular Arab women’s rights activists and Western observers worried that the change women helped ignite has betrayed them.” In Tunisia, though, women remained on the forefront of fighting for rights to religious expression. Official prohibitions on women wearing Islamic clothing such as the niqāb in universities implemented in 1981 under Decree 108  - which Ben Ali tried to extend in 2006 to include most forms of veiling - were challenged by groups of young female students demanding the right to veil early in 2012. At the University of Manouba, the intransigence of the dispute closed down the university for more than a month. Tchaïcha and Arfaoui rightly point out the multiplicity of feminism in Tunisia after the fall of Ben Ali. They discuss the role of “Islamist feminism” in shaping a new discourse about what feminism actually means in its Tunisian context, quoting one interview subject as saying, “[Traditional f]eminism has been associated with the foreign, with the western thought, with a certain attitude about women, and it is not welcomed” (224). A dichotomy had developed wherein the bulwark of secular feminism in Tunisia began to lose ground to a type of feminism - often espoused by men and women alike - emphasizing religious freedoms and rights.

Even as doubts about the efficacy of secular models of feminism arose, government attempts to ensure women’s access to public life remained visible. The transitional Tunisian government passed a law in May 2011 mandating that party voting lists alternate between women and men, effectively guaranteeing women half the ticket. Four thousand women declared for candidacy and won approximately one-quarter of the seats in the National Constituent Assembly with Meherzia Laâbidi - an Ennahda candidate perhaps most famous for her salary - installed as its Vice President. Other women have maintained prominent roles within the government or party structures, as well, including: Nadia Chaabane, head of the Pole Party and a passionate feminist in the secular model; Mabrouka M’Barek, head of the Congress for the Republic list and member of the Constitutional Committee; Lobna Jribi, deputy in Ettakatol and staunch proponent of the Open Government Initiative. They all represent the secular Tunisian feminist model. According to this Nawaat infographic, women hold three of the forty-two positions available within the governmental structure of ministries, with CPR deputy Sihem Badi running the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Ennahda member, Mamia Elbanna, heading the Ministry of the Environment.

Within this political sphere, Islamists began to circulate new models for a woman’s access to religious symbols and her role within society. The most debated of these models was the proposed Article 27, which characterized women as “man’s associate” and emphasized her “complementarity” (takāmul) with man. Reaction from secular feminists and the Western press was swift and damning, as it has since been in more liberal circles of the Arab world. Salma Hajri, of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women as quoted in a Tunisia Live piece, said, “I am distraught and worried. Women are not given rights as individuals, only in reference to men.” The public debate spurred massive demonstrations throughout the country on 13 August, Tunisian “Women’s Day,” to support women’s equality with men - a subject that still divides much of Tunisian society.

Are Tunisian women at risk of losing their rights, or of having their rights made contingent to those of men? Is the wording of the proposed Article 1.27 in fact a step back from previous iterations of women’s rights statutes in Tunisia? Article 23 of the original personal status code from 1957, taken again from Sfeir’s translation reads:

The husband shall treat his wife with benevolence, live with her on good terms, refrain from causing her harm and, in all those matters envisaged by true maintenance, support her and his children from her in accordance with his circumstances and hers. The wife shall, if she possesses any property, contribute to the support of the family. She shall respect her husband in his capacity as head of the family, and, within these prerogatives, obey him in whatever he orders her, and perform her marital duties in conformity with usage and custom.

This wording stood until a 1993 amendment of this article to the following:

It is incumbent upon each one of the spouses to treat the other with kindness and improve his or her wellbeing (ʿashira), and avoid inflicting harm upon him or her. The two spouses shall undertake married responsibilities according to what custom (al-ʿurf) and common practice (al-ʿāda) require, and help improve the family’s affairs (shuʾūn). They shall raise children and provide for them (taṣrīf shuʾūnihim), including: education, travel, and financial transactions. It is incumbent upon the husband, in his capacity as the head (raʾīs) of the family, to provide for his wife and children to the extent that his conditions and theirs allow within the scope of the content of payments. It is incumbent upon the wife to contribute to the family’s expenditures if she has means (māl).

The wording of the proposed Article 1.27 in the new draft constitution reads:

The state shall guarantee the protection of women’s rights and support for their gains, in considering her a true partner with man in building the nation; the role of these two is complimentary within the family. The state shall guarantee the parity (takāfuʾ) of opportunity between the woman and the man while accepting different responsibilities. The state shall guarantee prosecution of every form of violence against women.

The content of these statutes does not differ significantly. They all ascribe a type of “complementarity” between men and women within the space of the family, with both forms of the personal status code making women explicitly subservient to the man, who is “head of the household.” Only the proposed Article 1.27 explicitly assigns women a role in building the nation based on “parity.” Perhaps the most objectionable wording of the proposed Article 27 is its emphasis on accepting “different responsibilities,” but this does not depart noticeably from the Personal Status Code in classifying a woman’s responsibilities. In each case, these responsibilities are vaguely defined through “custom,” and are specifically tied to her responsibility to contribute funds to familial expenditures, if she is capable. The draft constitution more fully defines the state’s relationship with the family in Article 1.21:

The state guarantees the family’s rights the by recognizing them as potentialized, natural, and fundamental for society. The state shall work toward protecting the family, its stability, and allowing it to perform its role in safeguarding equality between the spouses. The state shall seek to ease the appropriate conditions for marriage; to guarantee a suitable home for every family; and to provide a minimum wage sufficient to support the dignity of its members.

In this article, the government explicitly uses the word “equality” (musāwāh) to define the role of spouses. Additional guarantees to equality are provided for all citizens in Article 1.22: "All citizens are equal in rights and responsibilities, and they are equal under the law."  Article 2.22 echoes this wording: "Citizens are equal in the rights and responsibilities under the law, without discrimination (tamyīz) in any form."

Given this application of “equality” in other articles of the draft constitution, it is strange that Article 28 received approval - nine of twelve votes, with eight of those votes coming from Ennahda members - in using the word “complementarity.” The word is used another time in the preamble of the draft constitution:

Working toward the establishment of Maghrebian Unity as a step toward the realization of Arab Unity, and toward a complementarity with Islamic Peoples and African Peoples, and cooperation with the People of the world [...]

Juxtaposing familial relations to state level commitments because of the word “complementarity” is surely as academic an exercise as one could imagine, but the choice of words here does not seem indicative of any attempt to weaken the sphere of Tunisia’s sovereignty or its assertion of rights in bilateral and international interactions. It may be, rather, that secular feminists overstate their case by claiming that the proposed Article 28 is a step backwards for women’s equality efforts in comparison with the Personal Status Code. Even with the semantic vagaries of proposed Article 28, the additional references to equality within the draft constitution should provide ample room to appeal for women’s access to rights and equality under in Tunisia. This is not to say that Tunisian women should cease to defend their rights and freedoms against infringement, but rather, steps should be taken to highlight areas of the constitution that do assert their equality under the law and perhaps pursue bringing the proposed Article 28 in line with these sentiments. Efforts could be made, for example, to publicize motions to strip Olympic silver medalist Habiba Ghribi of her citizenship for running in immodest shorts. This is a potential constitutional violation that specifically targets women’s equality in access to athletic activities as set forth in Article 1.33: "The state shall seeks to offer the necessary opportunities to practice athletic and physical activities and to offer means for improvement of living and leisure." Similarly, this call violates Article 1.6 in its attempt to strip natural-born Tunisians of their citizenship:

The state guarantees to its citizens individual and general freedoms, and presents to them means for a noble Living. Attempts to strip nationality from them, surrendering them to international authorities, exiling them, or preventing them from returning to their homeland are expressly forbidden.

By acting swiftly to support Habib Ghriba, public officials would be making a strong statement affirming women’s right to make personal choices about clothing and livelihood, and promoting the ways in which the draft constitution protects all Tunisians under the law in equal measure.

Other areas of the draft constitution might also profit from further revision from the Coordination Committee. One of the difficulties in translating Arabic is its use of masculine forms to refer to abstractly referenced individuals or to groups, and several proposed articles leave room for interpretations that do not in and of themselves provide for equality of men and women. Particularly problematic is the use of the words “citizen” (muwāṭin, pl. muwāṭinīn) and “Tunisian” (tūnisī):

Article 1.12

It is incumbent upon citizens maintain the unity of the nation and the defense of its inviolability, abide by its laws, and pay taxes.

Article 1.13

National service is incumbent upon citizens according to the structures and conditions regulated by law.

Article 1.14

A livelihood is a right of every citizen, and the state shall make every effort to guarantee It through appropriate and just circumstances.

Article 1.24

Compulsory national service is incumbent upon every citizen according to the patterns and forms which the law defines.

The word “Tunisian” (tūnisī) also becomes legally problematic when applied to standing as a candidate for president, presented in section 4.46 of the draft constitution.

Article 4.46 (First Opinion)

It shall be stipulated for the male or female candidate (mutarashshiḥ wa mutarashshiḥa) standing for the presidency of the Republic to: be a  voter; not carry a second nationality; be a Muslim born to a Tunisian mother and father; be at least forty (40) years of age.

Article 4.46 (Second Opinion)

Candidacy for the position of the President of the Republic is a right of every man or woman who is Tunisian by birth and whose religion is Islam.

Article 4.46 (Third Opinion)

Candidacy for the position of the President of the Republic is a right of every Tunisian.

Article 4.46 (Fourth Opinion)

Candidacy for the position of the President of the Republic is a right of every citizen carrying Tunisian nationality to the exclusion of all others.

Article 4.46 (Fifth Opinion)

Candidacy for the position of President of the Republic is a right of every Tunisian Muslim born to a Tunisian father, mother, and paternal and maternal grandfathers, to the exclusion of any break in lineage.

Certainly, some of the vagaries will be resolved in later legislation, especially those relating to national service in the armed forces and police in proposed articles 1.13 and 1.24. However, including the feminine muwāṭina in proposed articles 1.12 and 1.14 and tūnisiya as rendered in the first two opinions of proposed Article 4.46 would go a long way toward shoring up guarantees of explicit equality between men and women.

Many obstacles besides these stand between the National Constituent Assembly and the completion of a constitution which takes into account secular, religious, and gender concerns. There has been much furor over the proposed Independent Press Authority as provided for by the draft constitution, and continued barriers to press freedom remain entrenched. Despite gains made by journalists after a truly abysmal press climate under Ben Ali, Tunisia still ranked only 134th in the world in press freedom in 2011, according to Reporters Without Borders, and attacks on reporters and activists because of their political views continue. The implementation of a new judiciary, also provided with an independent oversight body by the draft constitution, will test a system which renowned Tunisian jurist Yadh Ben Achour describes as long subject to the political whims of the Tunisian government under both Bourguiba and Ben Ali. Long hours await the Coordination Committee in the next months and Tunisians will anxiously hang on every change to a draft constitution that attempts to break free of the limitations imposed by previous regimes and, simultaneously, sets the paradigm for writing governing documents in Libya, Egypt, and other states currently in transition in the MENA region.

If you prefer, email your comments to info@jadaliyya.com.

Jad Navigation

View Full Map, Topics, and Countries »
You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Top Jadaliyya Tags

Get Adobe Flash player

Jadaliyya Features

Pages/Sections

Archive