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Al-Majlis Al-watani Al-Taasisi (National Constituent Assembly)

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Parliament name -
Structure of parliament Unicameral
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 23 October 2011
Purpose of elections Elections were held for all seats in the newly established National Constituent Assembly.
The October 2011 elections to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) were the first to be held after the popular uprising that ousted long-serving President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. He had come to power in a bloodless coup in 1987 and ruled the country ever since. The bicameral parliament - comprising the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Councillors - was subsequently dissolved. The NCA elections were initially called for 24 July but were postponed to 23 October. At stake were 217 seats, of which 18 are filled from constituencies outside the country.

The electoral system used in the previous elections in 2009 stipulated that the list that secures an absolute majority at the national level obtains all the constituency seats. President Ben Ali's Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) therefore took all 161 seats filled under the majority system. The remaining 53 seats filled under the proportional representation system went to six other parties: the Democratic Socialist Movement (MDS, 16 seats) and the Popular Unity Party (PUP, 12 seats), the Unionist Democratic Union (UDU, nine), the Social Liberal Party (PSL, eight), the Green Party for Progress (PVP, six) and the Ettajdid Movement (two). In the presidential election, President Ben Ali won a fifth term. In November, the newly elected Chamber of Deputies re-elected Mr. Fouad Mebazaâ (RCD) as its Speaker.

Tunisia has invested heavily in education. The number of students enrolled at university rose from 41,000 in 1986 to 346,079 in 2010, much faster than the job creation rate. Although the national unemployment rate stood at about 19 per cent in 2010, the figure was reportedly higher in some areas. Youth unemployment reached 30 per cent.

On 17 December 2010, a 26 year-old unemployed graduate set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, in protest against the confiscation of his unlicensed vegetable cart and its goods, triggering massive demonstrations over a lack of jobs in the provinces. By 10 January 2011, the protests had reached the capital, Tunis. On 12 January, President Ben Ali dismissed his Interior Minister. The following day, he announced that he would stand down in 2014 but protesters continued to march, demanding his immediate resignation.

On 14 January, President Ben Ali declared a nationwide state of emergency, imposing a curfew, banning public gatherings, and authorizing the security forces to use armed force to deal with civil disobedience. He also announced the dissolution of the government and parliament, promising to hold parliamentary elections within six months. However, the protests intensified. Later the same day, he fled to Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced that he would temporarily assume the President's duties. He subsequently handed over power to Speaker Mebazaâ, pursuant to Article 57 of the Constitution. In total, over 200 people were killed during the unrest.

On 15 January, Mr. Mebazaâ was officially sworn in as Acting President. Mr. Sahbi Karoui became Acting Speaker. On 17 January, Prime Minister Ghannouchi announced the formation of a national unity government. It included several opposition figures but retained the key ministers - defence, finance, interior and foreign affairs - of the previous government. The composition the new government triggered a new wave of protest. On 27 January, Prime Minister Ghannouchi announced a cabinet reshuffle, replacing 12 ministers, including three key posts. On 6 February, the new Interior Minister, Fahrat Rajhi, banned all meetings of the RCD and ordered that all offices or meeting places it owned be closed.

On 23 January, the President of the Chamber of Councillors (and a former interior minister), Mr. Abdallah Kallel, was placed under house arrest and officially resigned two days later. Mr. Mekki El Aloui succeeded him in an acting capacity.

On 7 February, hundreds of people gathered in front of the parliament building to demand parliament's dissolution. On 8 and 9 February respectively, the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Councillors granted Acting President Mebazaâ the power to rule by decree on key issues in accordance with Article 28 of the Constitution. These issues included those related to the transition to democracy and the holding of elections within six months, a possible general amnesty, human rights legislation, the organization of political parties and a new electoral code.

Protesters continued to demand the resignation of close allies of the former president. The Minister of Regional Development, Mr. Ahmed Najib Chebbi, from the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), announced his resignation, claiming that the interim government was hesitant and fuzzy. On 27 February, Prime Minister Ghannouchi resigned and was replaced by Mr. Beji Caid Essebsi. His new government was sworn in on 7 March.

Pursuant to Article 63 (2) of the Constitution, the decree dissolving the national parliament must include the calling of new elections within a maximum period of thirty days. The Constitution stipulates that the Acting President shall serve for a period of at least 45 days and at most 60 days, i.e., until 15 March 2011. However, on 3 March, Acting President Mebazaâ announced that elections to the NCA would be held on 24 July 2011, and that he would continue to serve as Acting President until the elections were held.

On 15 March, Acting President Mebazaâ established the Council of the High Commission for the Fulfilment of the Goals of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition, which would be in charge of overseeing elections and constitutional reform. Chaired by Mr. Yadh Ben Achour, the Commission, initially composed of 35 members, would comprise over 150 members by June.

In the meantime, on 23 March, Decree-law No. 14 outlining the provisional division of government authority was issued. The decree officially dissolved the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Councillors, while tasking the Secretary General of each chamber with running parliament until the institutions provided for in the new Constitution were installed. Article 4 of the decree-law effectively granted the Acting President legislative powers.

The Ben Achour Commission established the Independent Higher Authority for Elections (ISIE) to oversee elections to the NCA. Between March and May, the Commission drafted several decree-laws related to these elections, which were subsequently signed into law by the Acting President. Decree-law No. 35 (10 May 2011) - the de facto election law to be used for the NCA elections - outlined the electoral process. Decree No. 582 (20 May 2011) set NCA elections for 24 July, tasking the NCA with drafting a new constitution within a year. According to the same decree, the NCA may nevertheless set its own timetable for constitution drafting extending beyond one year. On 22 May, the ISIE proposed to postpone the elections, stating that it would need more time to prepare the electoral roll and renew over 400,000 old identity cards. On 8 June, Prime Minister Essebsi officially announced that elections would be postponed to 23 October.

Over seven million Tunisians are over 18 years old and thus eligible to vote. Voter registration, initially due to close on 2 August, was extended to 14 August. Over 4.4 million voters were registered by the extended deadline. They included 330,000 of the 652,000 Tunisian expatriates eligible to vote.

A closed party-list proportional representation system was applied to all 217 seats. All parties must ensure that at least half of the list is filled by women, alternating men and women candidates throughout the list. Over 11,000 candidates ran in the 27 constituencies in Tunisia and 474 candidates were vying for seats from six out-of-country constituencies.

More than 80 political parties registered. One of the leading parties was the Islamist movement Ennahda (Renaissance). Founded in 1981 by Mr. Rached Ghannouchi, a former radical preacher, the movement comprised intellectuals who were inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In elections held in 1989, Ennahda came in second after the RCD. Although Ennahda did not win any seats, it was banned shortly after the 1989 elections and Mr. Ghannouchi fled to the United Kingdom. Mr. Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia in late January 2011 and the Ennahda party was legalized in March.

Other major parties included the Congress for the Republic (CPR), the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (FDTL, Ettakatol), the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and the Workers' Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT).

In addition, lists of independent candidates grouped under the Popular Petition for Freedom, Justice and Development (PP) were also vying for seats. The PP was backed by Mr. Hechmi Haamdi, a London-based wealthy media mogul, who reportedly had close ties with Mr. Ben Ali.

High-ranking RCD officials and persons who had signed petitions for Mr. Ben Ali's presidential bid for 2014 were barred from running in the NCA elections. Several new parties were formed by former RCD members, who remained eligible. They included the Initiative party (Al-Moubedra), formed in April 2011 by Mr. Kamel Morjane, a former defence minister, and the Afek Tounes party.

Election campaigning officially started on 1 October.

Ennahda pledged to work for equal rights for men and women. Its leader, Ghannouchi, said that his party was against the imposition of the headscarf in the name of Islam but it also opposed the banning of the headscarf in the name of secularism or modernity.

The CPR, a secular party founded in 2001, had been banned the following year. CPR leader Moncef Marzouki, a human rights activist, operated the party from France until he returned to Tunisia in January 2011. The CPR advocates an end to censorship, and the introduction of legislation that guarantees the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The FDTL, another secular party (founded in 1994 and legalized in 2002), pledged to reduce corruption by enhancing transparency. Its leader, Mr. Mustafa Ben Jaafar, briefly served as health minister in early 2011. The FDTL called for inheritance laws that ensure equality between men and women.

The PP promised to provide free medical care for all and a payout of 200 Tunisian dinars (about 100 euros) each to approximately 500,000 unemployed Tunisians in return for community service. PP leader Haamdi promised to inject 2 billion Tunisian dinars (about 1 billion euros) into the State budget.

The PDP, a secular party founded in 1983 by Mr. Ahmed Najib Chebbi, was one of the few parties allowed to operate under Mr. Ben Ali's regime. Former regional development minister Chebbi accused Ennahda of trying to create an "ideological State". Ms. Maya Jribi, PDP Secretary General since 2006, promised to raise the minimum salary and increase foreign investments in the country.

The PCOT, founded in 1986 and legalized in 2011, reportedly drew support from the demonstrators whose protests in Tunis' Kasbah Square eventually toppled Mr. Ben Ali. PCOT leader Hamma Hammami had been arrested several times under the Ben Ali regime.

The Initiative party urged voters not to exclude former RCD members from the new political scene. It said that the party comprised former RCD members and affiliates who had never been involved in any illegal activities. The Initiative party pledged to defend Tunisia's Arab-Islamic identity and work for a complete separation of powers. It supported a presidential regime that grants the President limited powers.

Out-of-country voting began on 20 October, ahead of voting in Tunisia, which was held on 23 October. In all, 75 per cent of 4.4 million registered voters turned out at the polls.

The European Union (EU) observer mission praised the ISIE for having organized elections "in transparency". The EU said it was satisfied with the conduct of 97 per cent of polling stations, adding that the remainder presented minor irregularities.

The final results gave 90 seats to Ennahda and 30 to the CPR. The FDTL, the PP and the PDP took 21, 19 and 17 seats respectively. The Initiative party and the PDM took five seats each, and the Afek Tounes party and the PCOT took four and three seats respectively. The remaining 23 seats went to small parties and independent candidates. In all, 57 women were elected.

On 22 November, the newly elected Constituent Assembly held its first session and elected Mr. Mustapha Ben Jaafar (FDTL) as its new Speaker.

The NCA has been tasked with drafting a new Constitution within one year, with a possible extension. The current constitution was adopted on 1 June 1959, under Tunisia's first President, Habib Bourguiba, and amended in 1999, 2004 and 2009. The NCA has been vested with the authority to either appoint a new government or extend the current government's term until general elections are held under the new Constitution.

On 12 December, the NCA elected CPR leader Moncef Marzouki as the country's new President.
Voter turnout
Round no 123 October 2011
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes
4'308'888 (51.98%)

Distribution of seats
Round no 1
Political Group Total
Ennahdha 89
Congress for the Republic (CPR) 29
Popular Petition for Freedom, Justice and Development (PP, Al Aridha) 26
Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (FDTL, Ettakatol) 20
Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) 16
Independents 16
Initiative (Al-Moubedra) 5
Democratic Modernist Pole (PDM) 5
Afek Tounes 4
Workers' Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT, Al Badil Athawri) 3
Socialist Democrat Movement (MDS) 2
People's Movement (Haraket Achaab) 2
Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
Distribution of seats according to profession
National Constituent Assembly (07.12.2011, 21.12.2011, 01.01.2014)

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