Summary of Day 7: Historic Parity Rule Adopted Amid Heated Debate and Celebration

– Election of President of new Independent High Commission for Elections
– Adoption of articles 44 to 48
– Launch of process for selecting members of the new Truth and Dignity Commission

The Assembly witnessed yesterday a mix of heated scenes and recriminations, as well as a final vote on presidency of the Independent High Commission for Elections on Thursday. The morning plenary began with a vote on article 44 on the right to “a sound and balanced environment” which was passed with a high level of consensus, with 164 votes for, 4 abstentions and 0 against. Differences broke out regarding article 45 and the issue of positive discrimination. Although draft article 45, which enshrines the state’s obligation to protect and promote women’s rights, had already met with approval by all blocs within the Assembly committees and Consensus Committee, a dispute arose concerning a new proposed amendment to insert an obligation on the state to “strive to realise equal representation of women and men on all elected councils”, the so-called “parité” rule.  

Highlights of the day
Election of President of new Independent High Commission for Elections
– Adoption of articles 44 to 48
– Launch of process for selecting members of the new Truth and Dignity Commission.

This amendment put forward by the Consensus Committee was debated within many blocs in their internal meetings on Wednesday. The parity rule was first instituted in the elections of October 2011, when the election law had required that every electoral list include 50% women and 50% men and ensure they were arranged alternately on the list. The proportion of women in the Assembly is just under 30% – higher than many developed countries such as Canada, the UK and the US.

The parity rule for election lists had been officially welcomed by most parties entering the elections and had not provoked much debate. However, the new proposal to constitutionalise this principle and extend it to all “elected councils” met both with heated opposition and passionate support from deputies in Thursday’s plenary.

Lobna Jeribi (Ettakattol Party) spoke for the amendment, arguing that a constitutional obligation on the state to ensure equal representation was vital for protecting women’s rights and participation. Monia Ibrahim (Ennahdha Party) argued that the amendment created a disharmony in the constitution between this article and other articles regarding equality and prohibition on discrimination between men and women. Mehrezia Labidi (Deputy Speaker, Ennahdha Party) argued that the amendment was in total harmony with the other articles in the constitution. There was also concern among some deputies that the wording created ambiguity as to whether the obligation required 50/50 gender balance in terms of nominations for positions on elected councils or in terms of actual posts, which could be difficult to implement. However, the General Rapporteur for the Constitution, Habib Khedhr, clarified that the article required 50/50 gender balance in terms of nominations and not positions. After a heated discussion, the amendment was passed, with 116 votes for, 32 abstentions and 40 against.

The announcement of the amendment’s adoption provoked a round of applause among deputies and the gallery and many stood to sing the national anthem to celebrate the passing of the amendment. However, a dispute soon broke out between Monia Ibrahim and Samir Bettaieb (Masar Party), and the latter later apologised for having insulted Ibrahim.

Thursday’s afternoon plenary was devoted to electing the president of the Independent High Commission for Elections (L’Instance Supérieure Indépendante pour les Élections, ISIE). Five of the 9 members of the ISIE had put themselves forward for the position of president – Chafik Sarsar, Riadh Bouhouchi, Mourad Ben Moula, Faouzia Drissi and Lamia Zargouni. Discussions of the candidates were briefly interrupted by a point of order by Abderraouf Ayed (Wafa Bloc) to state that he had been contacted by two citizens concerning a complaint they had submitted to the President of the Assembly regarding the distribution of caricatures that insulted the sacred.

The plenary then proceeded to a vote on the president of the ISIE. Chafik Sarsar was elected president, with 153 out of 213 of the votes cast. The results were:

Drissi 1
Bouhouchi 7
Ben Moula 10
Zargouni 37
Sarsar 153

The President of the Assembly, Mustapha Ben Jaafar, held a press conference shortly after the plenary in which he announced the names of the newly formed ISIE and said that it had been “a historic day” for Tunisia. He applauded the efforts expended over the past year to establish the ISIE, and in particular the hard work of the ISIE Nominations Committee, which had held over 55 meetings. He confirmed that the Assembly would continue its work of discussing and voting on the Constitution, article by article, with the aim of finishing and adopting the Constitution on 13th January.

The plenary then resumed at 20.30 to continue discussing the Constitution. The plenary adopted article 46 on the rights of the child, article 47 on the rights of persons with disabilities, and article 48 on the scope of restrictions to rights and freedoms in the constitution. A proposal to insert a new article on the right to work put forward by Fattouma Attia (Ennahdha Party) provoked lively debate, with Hassen Radhouani (Independent) arguing that it would lead to “ultraliberalism”. After several requests from deputies to postpone the vote on this amendment to allow all the blocs to examine it further, the plenary was adjourned and the vote postponed till the following day.

An announcement was made during the plenary that a committee to organize the election of the new Truth and Dignity Commission established by the Transitional Justice Law will commence and that parliamentary blocs are requested to put forward their candidates for this committee.

Article 44

Amended version of article 44 adopted with 164 votes for, 4 abstentions and 0 against.

Final version of article 44 as adopted: “Contribution to a sound climate and the right to a sound and balanced environment shall be guaranteed. The state shall provide the necessary means to eliminate environmental pollution.”

Article 45

Draft: “The state shall ensure the protection of women’s rights and support their gains. The state shall ensure equal opportunities between women and men in all responsibilities. The state shall take the necessary measures to eliminate violence against women.”

Proposed amendment to add “The state shall strive to realise equal representation of women and men on all elected councils” passed with 116 votes for, 32 abstentions and 40 against.

Amended version of article 45 adopted with 127 votes for, 24 abstentions and 43 against.

Final version of article 45 as adopted: “The state shall ensure the protection of women’s rights and support their gains. The state shall ensure equal opportunities between women and men in all responsibilities. The state shall take the necessary measures to eliminate violence against women.”

Article 46

Draft: “Children are entitled to be guaranteed dignity, health, care, development and education from their parents and the state. The state shall provide all forms of protection to all children with no discrimination, according to the best interest of the child.”
Consensual amendment to amend the text to “The state shall provide all forms of protection to all children with no discrimination according to the best interest of the child” to “the state shall provide all forms of protection to all children with no discrimination, according to the best interests of the child” adopted with 173 for, 3 abstentions and 2 against.

Amended version of article 46 adopted with 171 for, 2 abstentions and 1 against.

Final version of article 46 as adopted: “Children are entitled to be guaranteed dignity, health, care, development and education from their parents and the state. The state shall provide all forms of protection to all children with no discrimination according to the best interests of the child.”

Article 47

Draft: “The state shall protect those with disabilities against all discrimination. All citizens with disabilities shall have the right to benefit, according to the nature of their disability, from all measures that enable them to fully integrate into society.”

Consensual amendment to amend the text to “the state shall protect persons with disabilities against all discrimination. All citizens with disabilities shall benefit, according to the nature of their disability, from all measures that guarantee their full integration into society. The state shall take all necessary measures to realise this right” adopted with 171 for, 2 abstentions and 3 against.

Amended version of article 47 adopted with 171 for, 2 abstentions and 0 against.

Final version of article 47 as adopted: “The state shall protect persons with disabilities against all discrimination. All citizens with disabilities shall benefit, according to the nature of their disability, from all measures that guarantee their full integration into society. The state shall take all necessary measures to realise this right”.

Article 48

Draft: “The law shall determine the restrictions relating to the rights and freedoms guaranteed in this Constitution and their enjoyment on the condition that such restrictions shall not compromise the essence of these rights and freedoms. Such law shall not be adopted except to protect the rights of others or to meet the requirements of public order, national defense or public health. Judicial authorities shall ensure that rights and freedoms are protected from any violation.”

Consensual amendment to amend the text to “The law shall specify the restrictions related to the rights and freedoms guaranteed in this Constitution and their enjoyment on the condition that such restrictions shall not compromise the essence of these rights and freedoms. Such restrictions shall only be imposed where necessary in a civil, democratic society and with the purpose of protecting the rights of others or where required by public order, national defense, public health or public morals, while ensuring any restrictions are proportionate to the intended objective. Judicial authorities shall ensure that rights and freedoms are protected from all violations. No amendment may undermine the human rights and freedoms guaranteed within this Constitution” adopted with 159 for, 6 abstentions and 4 against.

Final version of article 48 as adopted: “The law shall specify the restrictions related to the rights and freedoms guaranteed in this Constitution and their enjoyment on the condition that such restrictions shall not compromise the essence of these rights and freedoms. Such restrictions shall only be imposed where necessary in a civil, democratic society and with the purpose of protecting the rights of others or where required by public order, national defense, public health or public morals, while ensuring any restrictions are proportionate to the intended objective. Judicial authorities shall ensure that rights and freedoms are protected from all violations. No amendment may undermine the human rights and freedoms guaranteed within this Constitution.”

A proposal to add a new article on the right to a decent abode was rejected with 90 votes for, 29 abstentions and 59 against.

Proposal to add a new article on the right to work – the vote was postponed till Friday’s plenary.

One Comment

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.