Summary of Day 17: Assembly Enters Final Discussions of Constitution
Monday’s plenary began in an atmosphere of hushed anticipation as the National Constituent Assembly glimpsed the end of its discussion of the draft constitution, which has been two years in the making. The public gallery was filled to near capacity as journalists, civil society representatives and members of the public came to witness what was hoped to be the final plenary before the final vote on the entire text of the constitution.
The plenary was dedicated to amendments to articles already examined in previous sessions, and on which the meeting of the presidents of the blocs (lasting till the early hours of the morning) had reached agreement. The majority of the amendments were linguistic corrections and adjustments to bring all the articles of the constitution into harmony. However, there were some substantive changes, such as the reintroduction of the principle of positive discrimination for regions in article 12.
The session was brought to an abrupt halt when the plenary voted to amend article 73 to remove the upper age limit, lower the minimum age limit and allow bi-national candidates. This caused an uproar as a number of deputies threw their papers in the air and a number withdrew.
The plenary is expected to resume tomorrow afternoon after meetings of blocs and between presidents of blocs to resume discussions over transitional provisions. Once all articles in the draft constitution have been voted on, deputies will be given the final draft and will have 24 hours to examine it. According to article 3 of the internal regulations of the Assembly, they will then vote on the final draft as a whole, with a 2/3 majority of members (145 deputies) required for its adoption. If it fails to be adopted at the first reading, it will then be submitted for a second vote in the plenary within one month. If it fails to be adopted on the second vote, it must be submitted to a national referendum.
The current draft transitional provisions state that, if adopted, the constitution must be signed by the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the President of the Assembly in an extraordinary session that must be held within a week of its adoption.
Article 79 – linguistic change in the third paragraph regarding the “passing of 30 days” passed with 172 for, 2 abstentions, 0 against.
Amended article 79 adopted with 174 for, 0 abstentions, 1 against.
Article 96 – linguistic change in the first paragraph regarding the “passing of 30 days” passed with 168 for, 3 abstentions, 1 against.
Amended article 96 adopted with177 for, 2 abstentions, 1 against.
Article 69 – amendment of second reference to “Chamber of Deputies” to the “Chamber” due to repetition in the first paragraph, passed with 165 for, 2 abstentions, 2 against.
Amended article 69 adopted with 173 for, 4 abstentions, 4 against.
Article 123 – amendment in the first sentence to “The Electoral Commission shall be responsible for the management and organization of elections and referenda” passed with 177 for, 3 abstentions, 1 against.
Amended article 123 adopted with 175 for, 3 abstentions, 1 against.
Article 86 – amendment to first paragraph to amend “judicial immunity” to “immunity” passed with 174 for, 3 abstentions, 1 against.
Amended article 86 adopted with 171 for, 4 abstentions, 2 against.
Article 108 – amendment to amend first sentence to “Judgments are issued in the name of the people and executed in the name of the President of the Republic” passed with 164 for, 8 abstentions, 2 against.
Amended article 108 adopted with 170 for, 5 abstentions, 2 against.
Article 12 – amendment to add “with reference to development indicators and in accordance with the principle of positive discrimination” passed with 172 for, 3 abstentions, 2 against.
Amended article 12 adopted with 174 for, 4 abstentions, 3 against.
Article 10 – amendment to amend wording to “Paying taxes and public contributions is an obligation, in accordance with a fair and equitable system. The state shall put in place the mechanisms necessary to ensure the collection of taxes and combatting of tax evasion and fiscal fraud. The state shall ensure the proper use of public funds and to take the necessary measures to optimise its spending according to national economic priorities and shall work to prevent corruption and all that could undermine national sovereignty.” Amendment passed with 114 for, 16 abstentions, 48 against.
Amended article adopted with 123 for, 11 abstentions, 42 against.
Article 102 – amendment to change “flagrant” to “flagrant delicto” passed with 163 for, 7 abstentions, 1 against.
Amended article 102 adopted with 163 for, 10 abstentions, 5 against.
Article 133 – amendment to add “a portion of income from the exploitation of natural resources may be dedicated to stimulate regional development on a national level” passed with 136 for, 20 abstentions and 27 against.
Amended article 133 adopted with 165 for, 12 abstentions and 9 against.
Article 62 – a return to the original draft as this was rejected on a first vote. The original draft is: “Proposed laws or amendments presented by deputies shall not be admitted if their ratification would cause prejudice to the state’s financial balance as determined by the budget law.”
The article was adopted with 138 for, 15 abstentions and 23 against.
Article 64 – previously not passed. amendment to amend the seventh section by removing “unless such authority has been delegated to the Prime Minister by virtue of finance or fiscal laws” passed with 165 for, 9 abstentions and 10 against.
Another amendment to article 164 to add to the list of organic laws, “the organic law for budgets” passed with 174 for, 7 abstentions and 4 against.
Amended article 64 adopted with 177 for, 8 abstentions and 2 against.
Article 74 – amendment to third paragraph to “In the event of the death of one of the candidates in the first round, or one of the candidates in the second round, or being prevented from continuing by force majeure, nominations shall be reopened and new dates for elections shall be set within a period not exceeding 45 days. This does not apply to withdrawal in the first or second round.” Amendment adopted with 163 for, 8 abstentions and 13 against.
Amended article 74 adopted with 170 for, 12 abstentions and 9 against.
Article 73 – amended to remove upper age limit for presidential candidates, lower minimum age to 35 and allow bi-national candidates (where they undertake to give up their non-Tunisian nationality if elected) passed with 111 for, 18 abstentions and 60 against.