Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tunisia's Triumph

Yesterday I probably came across as a little cynical about the state of Tunisia on the third anniversary of Ben Ali's ouster.  The country remains, however, the success story of the Arab Spring, as seen in its progress toward a constitution:
Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly is close to passing a new Constitution that legislators across the political spectrum, human rights organizations and constitutional experts are hailing as a triumph of consensus politics.
Two years in the making and now in its third draft, the charter is a carefully worded blend of ideas that has won the support of both Ennahda, the Islamist party that leads the interim government, and the secular opposition. It is being hailed as one of the most liberal constitutions in an Arab nation...
The first two articles lay out the balance between Islamist and secular views in careful language that is not subject to amendment by future governments. “Tunisia is a free, independent and sovereign state, Islam is her religion, Arabic her language and republic her regime,” they say. “Tunisia is a state of civil character, based on citizenship, the will of the people and the primacy of law.”
The atmosphere in the 217-member assembly drafting the charter changed remarkably in the last 12 days, as members put aside the hostilities that had suspended the proceedings for five months and worked 14-hour days to debate and vote on the draft, article by article.
“It’s a positively crazy, fantastic environment,” said Noomane Fehri, a member of a small secular party, Afek Tounes. “There is a will to complete it within the time frame, and suddenly things started to work.” The assembly is likely to ratify the full charter with the necessary two-thirds majority when the final vote is taken, he said. The vote may come in the next few days.
Tunisia remains a divided society, but the outpouring of competing opinions to mark the revolution's third anniversary is a testament to what has been achieved, as people feel comfortable standing up for their vision of society in what had been one of the Arab world's most politically repressive dictatorships.  Revolutions are always messy, but the odds are in favor of this one giving rise to a respectable democratic order.



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