Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisians Debate Draft Constitution

Tunis — Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Sunday (January 6th) for a regional debate on the new constitution.

"Consensus is necessary in drafting the new constitution and no party should impose its will," stated the General Rapporteur of the Constitution Subcommittee, Habib Khedher.

The draft constitution, written by constituent committees, will be presented to the plenary session in the National Constituent Assembly for ratification. With its ratification, the Second Republic will be born.

Tunisian civil society, however, is critical of the current draft.

"There is a danger in the repeated mention of (respect for the sacred) in the draft constitution, which drives one to wonder about the reality of the civilian state, an essential aspect that must be enforced after the revolution and with the commitment and respect of all parties," said Iadh Ben Achour, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Tunis.

He said that "pushing forward basic principles at the expense of rights and freedoms" was not in line with the principles of the revolution.

According to him, it would have been better "to put forward the sections on rights and freedoms, instead of the other sections".

"Why formulate a new constitution for the country if we are not convinced or ready to admit that a revolution took place?," asked Souad Khallouli from the Beja branch of the Our Constitution network.

She further explained, "The Constitution of the Revolution must find answers to the causes of the revolution. And it must find values ensuring all the mechanisms and tools that have contributed to its success. We didn't see this in the text of the draft constitution... The Constitution of the Revolution missed the spirit of the revolution and missed also the spirit and intention of sharing a territory and a nation."

"When youth gained their right to rise up against tyranny, they came out and gained a huge physical space called the street," said Jawher ben Moubarek, professor of constitutional law and founder of the Our Constitution network.

"Then they gained their right to expression and to information and its dissemination," he added. "They liberated a large cyberspace called the internet. That is how the revolution was won. Yet young people are totally missing from the draft constitution... There, they have no effect and no trace of rights. Doesn't the constitution have room for young people?"

"The state does not guarantee freedoms. The state has only the obligation not to attack liberty and is committed to protecting liberties from attack," ben Moubarek stated.

In his article titled "The New Draft Constitution or the Road to the Abyss," blogger Malek Baroudi wrote, "I came across the new draft constitution, and it was clear to me beyond doubt that the future, in case this document is ratified, will be only a mixture of Afghanistan and Somalia."

"Isn't the return of words such as 'the fundamentals of Islam' or 'principles' or 'purposes' a return to square one, like taking sharia out by the door and then bringing it back in through the window? Where is the civil state in this speech? Isn't this language mocking people and making fun of them?" he asked.

Khedher said the constitution "could be put to the vote as a first reading in late February 2013".

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