Tunisia gets new constitution, cabinet

Tunisia gets new constitution, cabinet

Tunisian MPs have adopted a new constitution and the prime minister has named a caretaker cabinet tasked with organising fresh polls – two key goals of the revolution that touched off the Arab Spring three years ago.

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The North African country’s Constituent Assembly adopted the new charter, seen as one of the most modern in the Arab world, on Sunday with an overwhelming majority of 200 votes in favour, 12 against and four abstentions.

“This day will be proudly remembered in history,” Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar said.

“All Tunisian men and women can identify with this constitution, which preserves our past accomplishments and lays the foundations of a democratic state,” he said.

The drafting of the new constitution lasted two years and exposed a deep rift between Ennahda – a once-banned Islamist movement, now Tunisia’s largest party – and the secular opposition.

But after months of political crisis and sporadic violence, Sunday’s milestones set Tunisia on course to achieve at least some of the goals of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

In contrast, neighbouring Libya and Egypt remain mired in instability and crippling political deadlocks three years after the Arab Spring.

Mehdi Jomaa, the technocrat picked as prime minister-designate last month in a deal that saw Ennahda relinquish power in a bid to end the political crisis, announced he had presented his line-up to President Moncef Marzouki.

“I have submitted to the president the list of members of the proposed government to be subjected to a confidence vote in the National Constituent Assembly,” he said.

With Ennahda and the liberals at loggerheads, especially since the assassination last year of two opposition MPs by suspected jihadists, the new cabinet is made up mostly of technocrats.