Tunisia to maintain July election
TUNIS - Tunisia's transitional government said Tuesday that elections for a national constituent assembly would go ahead on July 24 despite calls from the election commission for a delay until October.
"The government has decided to keep the July 24 date," said government spokesman Taieb Baccoucheen.
"We are committed to offering the commission all the means it needs to organise these elections," he said, adding: "The commission proposed the delay without conferring with the government first."
The constituent assembly vote will be the first poll in the north African country since the fall in January of the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was president for 23 years.
The new assembly will be tasked with drawing up a new constitution and preparing for elections to replace the transitional government.
The Tunisian electoral commission, recently set up to prepare and oversee the vote, on Sunday recommended postponing it until October 16, saying that the necessary conditions could not be in place by July.
Electoral commission chief Kamel Jendoubi said Tuesday that he "took note" of the government's decision, but did not endorse the July poll date.
"We are going to deliberate," he said.
On Sunday, Jendoubi said the commission did not "have enough time to hold an election on July 24," citing, among other hurdles, the seven million voters to be registered.
"Organising the elections on July 24 runs the risk of having bad elections that are not credible," said Yadh Ben Achour, president of Tunisia's commission on political reform.
He listed logistical problems including the need to train 6,000 voter registration agents and set up 1,500 registration centres and 8,000 voting centres.
Talk of a delay immediately roused hostility from the opposition, who accused the interim authorities of seeking to gain time at the risk of national instability.
On Monday, the secretary general of the opposition Progressist Democratic Party, Maya Jribi, said this election was "awaited by all citizens", and noted that economic and security problems needed to be tackled.
This view is shared by the Islamist movement Ennahda (Renaissance), which experts believe might fare best in the polls.
"The prolongation of the transitional period will have impacts in the economic, social and security domains," Ennahda spokesman Ali Laraydh said Monday. "Some want a delay to play for time for purely political reasons."