Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Road Bumps in Tunisia's Transition

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Road Bumps in Tunisia's Transition

Article excerpt

The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the New America Foundation co-hosted a June 29 event titled "Road Bumps in Tunisia: Understanding Emerging Tensions" at the New America Foundation offices in Washington, DC. Leila Hilal, co-director of New America Foundation's? Middle East Task Force, moderated the discussion.

Alexis Arieff, a North Africa analyst at the Congressional Research Service, provided an update on the country's constitution drafting process. The 217-member Constituent Assembly, which held its first meeting in November 2011, "is in some ways still finding its way forward," she said, and is working at a slow pace. Indeed, she noted, to date the body has only completed the constitution's preamble.

That preamble-which speaks of a civil state, emphasizes equality among all citizens, discusses the importance of self-determination, mentions Palestinian liberation, and contains references to Islam and Arab unity-"does appear to be an effort to forge common ground among the many constituencies that are involved in the drafting," she said.

However, Arieffdid caution that "the preamble should perhaps be the easiest part of the constitution, so I think we have to wonder what that says about progress on the more important and thornier issues." Constituent Assembly president Mustapha Ben Jaafar has stated that he expects the constitution to be completed by Oct. 23.

Amine Ghali, program director of the Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center, offered a critical commentary on how Ennahda, the Islamist party that controls a plurality of the seats in the Constituent Assembly, has managed the constitution-drafting process. …

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