Summary of Day 9: Saturday 11th January – Assembly Reaches the Halfway Mark and Embarks on Chapter on Executive Powers
After the heated scenes of Friday evening, the plenary started at midday on Saturday following meetings of the Consensus Committee and parliamentary blocs. The plenary began with a request to return to article 54 which had been adopted the previous day, to add a paragraph stating that “the Election Law shall establish the legal consequences of a change by a member of the Chamber of Deputies of his or her political affiliation or electoral bloc in whose name he or she stood for election”. This issue relates to the debate on Friday evening surrounding the issue of “parliamentary tourism” whereby deputies running on a political party electoral list are entitled to change their political affiliation following elections. However, the amendment was defeated, causing some opposition among independent deputies, particularly Aymen Zouaghi of Tayyar alMahabba.
The debate returned to pick up with draft article 64 on the categorization of laws as organic and ordinary laws. A proposed amendment by Mahmoud Baroudi (Democratic Bloc) was rejected while another proposed amendment by Kamel ben Romdhane (Ennahdha Party) passed, causing some heated debate and a demand by some deputies to adjourn the session to allow the parliamentary blocs to discuss their position on the amended article. When the session resumed, voting took place and the article was rejected.
7: Number of articles Adopted
3: Number of articles Rejected
3: Number of articles adopted unanimously
50%: percentage of articles voted on out of the total of 146 in the draft
165: Average number of deputies voting per article
132: Average number of deputies voting “yes” per article
Articles 65 on the voting procedures of draft budget laws, 66 on ratification of treaties, 67 on parliamentary immunity passed with little disagreement and 68 on conditions for the lifting of parliamentary immunity. However, discussions were soon interrupted by a declaration by Faiza Kadoussi (Tayyar alMahabba bloc) that her bloc would be withdrawing from the rest of the discussions on the constitution on the basis that all their proposed amendments had been disregarded and rejected and that as a result they felt that the Constitution was worse than the 1959 constitution in terms of its protection of religion and marginalised sectors of society. The Speaker, Mustapha Ben Jaafar (Ettakattol Party), expressed his regret at this announcement and adjourned the session for discussions.
On its return, the plenary moved onto articles 69 regarding the power to issue decrees and decree-laws during the periods where the Chamber is in recess or has been dissolved. The text was the subject of a consensual amendment to give the power of issuing decrees to the President of the Republic, “with the approval of the Prime Minister”, which was adopted. However, the text itself failed to be adopted when it failed to achieve the requisite two-thirds majority.
The plenary then progressed to Chapter Four of the constitution, on “Executive Authority”. Articles 70 on the two heads of executive power, 71 on the role and general duties of the President and 72 on the official seat of the Presidency were adopted with little debate. However, article 73 on the conditions for candidacy for the position of President of the Republic proved a point of deep disagreement. A consensual amendment put forward by the Consensus Committee proposed to remove the upper age limit for candidacy and to allow individuals with dual nationality to run on condition that they undertake to give up their non-Tunisian nationality if elected. Hichem Hosni (Progressive Struggle Party) spoke against the amendment to remove an upper age limit and to allow candidates with dual nationality. An incident between two deputies disrupted discussions, with one of them, Mouldi Zidi of Tayyar alMahabba being driven from the room to avoid further confrontation.
The issue of removing the upper age limit is seen as a concession to Beji Caid Sebsi who has pushed for the removal of the limit to allow him to run for the coming Presidential elections. It raises concerns and political calculations – concerns among some about the capacity of a person over 75 years of age to fulfill the demanding role of President, and political calculations among others who see Sebsi as an undesirable candidate or as a threat to their own party’s prospects in the Presidential elections. The amendment was rejected, with 81 votes for, 25 abstentions and 70 against.
The votes taken on Saturday are summarized below:
Article 54 amendment to add “the Election Law shall establish the legal consequences of a change by a member of the Chamber of Deputies of his or her political affiliation or electoral bloc in whose name he or she stood for election” rejected with 89 for, 15 abstentions and 54 against.
Draft art 64: “Laws relating to the following areas are deemed ordinary laws:
– Classification of public institutions and facilities and the provisions regulating sales thereof.
– Civil and commercial obligations.
– Procedures taken before various types of courts.
– Specifying felonies and misdemeanors and the punishments applicable thereto, in addition to violations resulting in a penalty involving deprivation of freedom.
– General pardon.
– Regulation of taxation rules, percentages and procedures for collection thereof, unless such authority has been delegated to the Prime Minister by virtue of finance or fiscal laws.
– Regulations of currency issuance.
– Loans and financial obligations of the state.
– Regulation of senior public officials
– Declaration of earnings
– Basic guarantees given to civil and military employees.
– Organization of the ratification of treaties.
– Laws of finance and balancing of the state budget, and the ratification of development plans.
– The fundamental principles of property laws, rights in rem, education, scientific research, culture,
public health, the environment, land and urban planning, energy, the Labor Law, and social security.
Laws relating to the following areas are deemed organic laws:
- Ratification of treaties.
- Organization of justice and the judiciary.
- Organization of the media, press and publication.
- Organization and funding of parties, trade unions, associations, and professional organisations and bodies.
- Organization of the national army.
- Organization of the internal security forces and customs.
- Election law.
- Extension of term of the parliament according to article 55.
- Extension of presidential term according to article 74.
- Freedoms and human rights.
- Personal status laws.
- Fundamental duties of citizenship.
- Local authorities.
- Organization of constitutional commissions.
All matters which do not form part of the domain of laws shall be part of general regulatory powers.
Proposed amendment to amend paragraph (7) of the article to “Regulation of all taxation rules, percentages and procedures for collection thereof” rejected with 103 for, 17 abstentions and 51 against.
Proposed amendment to add to the list of organic laws, “the organic law for budgets” passed with 134 for, 9 abstentions and 31 against.
Article 64 not passed: 14 for, 17 abstentions and 141 against.
Draft: “The law determines the state’s resources and its expenses in conformity with the provisions set out in the organic budget law.
The Chamber of Deputies shall ratify the draft budget laws and the balancing of the budget in accordance with the terms stipulated under the organic budget law.
The draft budget law shall be presented to the Chamber no later than 31 October and shall be ratified no later than 20 December. The constitutional court shall render a decision on the constitutionality of the budget law within no longer than one week.
If the draft budget law is not ratified by 31 December, the draft budget law may be enforced in three-month installments renewable by virtue of a governmental decree.”
Consensual amendment to amend the text to the following: “The law determines the state’s resources and its expenses in conformity with the provisions set out in the organic budget law.
The Chamber of Deputies shall ratify the draft finance laws and the balancing of the budget in accordance with the terms stipulated under the organic budget law.
The draft finance law shall be presented to the Chamber no later than 15 October and shall be ratified no later than 10 December.
The President of the Republic may return the draft finance law to the Chamber for a second reading within two days following ratification by the Chamber. In this case, the Chamber meets to deliberate a second time within three days to exercise their right of response.
The parties referred to in the first section of article 117, during the three days following the ratification of the draft finance law by the Chamber when they deliberate a second time after the draft finance law is returned to them, or after the expiration of the term to exercise the right of response without its exercise, in such a case such parties can contest the unconstitutionality of the provisions of the draft finance law before the Constitutional Court, which shall issue its decision no later than five days of such contestation being lodged.
If the court rules that the provisions are unconstitutional, it shall communicate its decision to the President of the Republic, who in turn communicates it to the President of the Chamber of Deputies, all of which shall be completed within two days of the date of the court’s decision. The Chamber shall ratify the draft finance law within the three days following its being informed of the decision of the Constitutional Court.
If the court rules that the provisions are constitutional or in case of ratification a second time after its return to the Chamber or upon the expiration of the term for response and contestation without either of these occurring, the President of the Republic shall ratify the draft finance law within two days. In all cases, the law shall be sealed no later than 31 December.
If the draft finance law is not ratified by 31 December, the law can be implemented where it relates to expenditures, in installments of three months, subject to renewal by a presidential order, and revenues shall continue to be collected in accordance with the laws in force.”
The consensual amendment was passed with 171 for, 6 abstentions and 2 against.
Amended article 65 adopted with 169 for, 5 abstentions and 2 against.
Draft: “Commercial treaties and treaties related to international organizations, the territorial borders of the state, the financial obligations of the state, the status of individuals, or provisions of a legislative nature shall be submitted for approval to the Chamber of Deputies.
Treaties shall only come into force upon their ratification.”
Proposed amendment to amend to last sentence to “Treaties shall only come into force once a seal of ratification has been placed” rejected with 13 for, 2 abstention and 144 against.
Unamended article 66 adopted with 168 for, 1 abstention and 5 against.
Draft: “No member of the Chamber of Deputies may be prosecuted for a civil or criminal matter, arrested or tried for expressing opinions or proposals or undertaking acts that are related to the performance of their parliamentary functions”.
Unamended article 67 adopted with 160 for, 3 abstentions and 0 against.
Draft: “If the deputy maintains his or her criminal immunity in writing, the deputy may not be prosecuted or arrested during his or her term of office for a criminal charge unless immunity is lifted. But in the event of flagrante delicto, the deputy may be arrested and the President of the Chamber shall immediately be notified, and the deputy shall be released if the Bureau of the Chamber so requests.”
Unamended article 68 adopted with 147 for, 2 abstentions and 0 against.
Draft: “In the event of the Chamber’s dissolution or during its recess, the Prime Minister may issue decrees to be submitted for ratification to the Chamber during its subsequent ordinary session. The electoral law is excluded from this process. The Chamber of Deputies may with three-fifths of its members delegate authority for a limited period and for a certain purpose to the Prime Minister to issue decree-laws to be submitted for ratification to the Chamber upon the end of the period mentioned”
Consensual amendment to amend to “In the event of the Chamber’s dissolution or during its recess, the President of the Republic may issue decrees with the approval of the Prime Minister to be submitted for ratification to the Chamber during its subsequent ordinary session. The Chamber of Deputies may with three-fifths of its members delegate authority for a limited period and for a certain purpose to the Prime Minister to issue decree-laws to be submitted for ratification to the Chamber upon the end of the period mentioned. The electoral law is excluded from this process.” The amendment was passed with 158 for, 5 abstentions and 3 against.
Proposed amendment to delete “The Chamber of Deputies may with three-fifths of its members delegate authority for a limited period and for a certain purpose to the Prime Minister to issue decree-laws to be submitted for ratification to the Chamber upon the end of the period mentioned” rejected with 27 for, 29 abstentions and 123 against.
Proposed amendment to amend the first paragraph to “In the event of the Chamber’s dissolution or during its recess, the President of the Republic may issue decrees to be submitted for ratification to the Chamber during its subsequent ordinary session” rejected with 46 for, 31 abstentions and 98 against.
Amended article 69 rejected with 106 for, 7 abstentions and 5 against.
Chapter Four: “Executive Authority” – title adopted with 173 for, 0 abstentions and 0 against.
Draft: “Executive authority is exercised by the President of the Republic and a government headed by the Prime Minister”.
Unamended article 70 adopted with 175 for 1 abstention, 0 against.
Section One: President of the Republic – title adopted with 175 for, 1 abstention and 0 against.
Draft: “The President of the Republic shall be the Head of State, shall represent its unity and guarantee its independence and continuity, and shall respect the Constitution”.
Proposed amendment to add “and treaties and human rights” rejected with 47 for, 16 abstentions and 111 against.
Unamended article 71 adopted with 169 for, 4 abstentions, 2 against.
Draft: “The official seat of the Presidency of the Republic shall be Tunis the capital. In the event of exceptional circumstances, the headquarters may be transferred to any other location in the Republic”.
Unamended article 72 adopted with 176 for, 0 abstentions, 1 against.
Draft: “Running for the position of President of the Republic shall be a right entitled to every male and female voter who holds Tunisian nationality since birth, whose religion is Islam. On the day of submission of candidacy, he or she must not possess any other nationality and must be at least forty years old and no more than seventy-five years old. The candidacy must have the support of a number of members of the Chamber of Deputies or heads of elected local municipal group councils or voters designated in accordance with the terms specified by the election law.”
Consensual amendment to lower the lower age limit to 35 years, remove the upper age limit, and allow bi-nationals to run where they undertake to give up their non-Tunisian nationality on being elected was rejected with 81 for, 25 abstentions and 70 against.