Tunisia draft constitution hangs in doubt in absence of consensus

Tunisia waiting for its future

TUNIS - The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) General Rapporteur Habib Khedher said on Friday that the completion of the final draft of the constitution, which was scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed again at the request of the Group of Experts tasked with the review of the draft.
Khedher, an MP affiliated with the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, said that the "experts asked to extend their work until Wednesday, which led to a slight delay in the completion of the draft."
The works of the Constituent Assembly have been marred by a slow pace , in the absence of consensus on the nature of the regime and the powers that should be given to the President and the Prime Minister.
Ennahda calls for the adoption of a parliamentary system, while the majority of other parties are calling for a mixed system in which the head of state has significant but limited powers.
Political parties suspended on Friday their participation in a national dialogue, held under the auspices of President Moncef Marzouki, after failing to reach a consensus on the powers of the President and the Prime Minister.
Opposition also accuses the parliamentary committee charged with drafting the constitution of modifying articles related to strikes and freedom of expression without having the authority to do so.
A copy of the final draft of the constitution was produced by the Joint Committee for Coordination and Drafting (JCCD) April 23.
Salma Baccar, an opposition member in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) and vice president of the Committee on Rights and Freedom, told Tunisian radio Express FM that the JCCD had changed at least five or six articles.
Baccar called this an abuse of power and said that, according to the NCA’s internal regulations, the JCCD only has the right to make stylistic, not substantive changes to the constitution.
Baccar added that modifications to Article 40 place restrictions on freedom of expression.
JCCD member Abdelmajid Najjar said that the committee has the right to amend articles and the committee’s changes were not unlawful.
Addressing the complaints of opposition members, he remarked, “Satisfying people is an end that cannot be achieved.”
In case a consensus is not reached, a referendum will take place following a second reading of the final draft. NCA member Fadhel Moussa posted on his Facebook page that reaching a consensus by July 8 during the first voting session is an optimistic scenario. However, he said, there are positive signs that having a satisfying final version of the constitution is feasible.