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Tunisia - Election - 2011

Elections for the newly established Constituent Assembly took place on 23 October 2011 and were judged by both international observer missions and the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) as free, fair, and transparent. The Constituent Assembly was mandated to appoint a new government, draft a new constitution and lead the way for legislative and presidential elections.

The initial election of 217 Constituent Assembly members held on 23 October 2011 resulted in al-Nahda with 89 seats, CPR 29, Popular Petition with 26, FDTL with 20, PDP with 16, PDM with 5, The Initiative with 5, Afek Tounes with 4, PCOT 3, other minor parties each with fewer than three seats 20 seats. President MARZOUKI was elected 12 December 2011 by the Constituent Assembly with 153 of 156 votes. Tunisia's interim government was appointed in December 2011 and would remain in power pending drafting of a new constitution and holding of general elections in 2013. Prime Minister JEBALI was asked to form a new government on 14 December 2011.

Two years after the revolution, members of the National Constituent Assembly were still battling over the constitution. By late 2012 Tunisia confronted several serious challenges as moderate and extreme forces are battled for control. The moderate faction of Tunisian society was increasingly alienated from Tunisian politics. The power-sharing agreement between the moderate Islamist Ennahda government and its coalition partners was under strain, and Tunisians were concerned about the possibility of a government standstill. The Ennahda party confronted two immediate challenges: 1) it was becoming increasingly difficult for Ennahda to balance the demands of both the Salafis and the secularists; and 2) there was a fracture between the leadership and the base.

Tunisias revolution was sparked when a fruit seller set himself on fire - an extreme protest against being fined for setting his stall in an illegal place. Two years later, the dictator is gone but at the market stalls in Tunis the hardship remained. Over 80 percent of Tunisian exports go to the European Union and with economic output shrinking in many of the EUs biggest economies at the end of 2012, the outlook remained tough. From the street to the boardroom, many Tunisians complain that politicians spend too much time debating the future instead of tackling Tunisias urgent problems.

Chokri Belaid, one of the leaders of the opposition Popular Front, was shot dead outside his Tunis home 06 February 2013. Belaid had strongly criticized the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party of failing to rein in extremist members and of threatening the opposition. His killing has sparked shock and outrage, and fears that religious extremists are trying to hijack Tunisia's transition to democracy. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said he would form a new technocrat government without political affiliations, in response to the murder of a prominent opposition leader. Jebali announced the move 06 February 2013 on national television as thousands of protesters clashed with police in the capital in response to the murder of Chokri Belaid. The prime minister said his new ministers would have a mandate limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held, and said those polls would take place as soon as possible.

Tunisia descended into political crisis after secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his home in Tunis. Tunisians do not have a tradition of religious extremism. But Tunisian opposition groups continue to blame the assassination of party leader Chokri Belaid on extremist Muslims known as Salafists. They accuse the ruling Ennahda party of encouraging religious violence - a charge the government denies. But no matter who might be behind Belaids death, there is growing fear among moderate and secular Tunisians that extremism is on the rise. Organizations known as the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution are accused of carrying out an agenda of religious violence - attacking art galleries and harassing women who refuse to wear Islamic dress.

Thousands of Tunisians rallied in support of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party as Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali threatened to resign if his proposal to appoint a nonpolitical cabinet of technocrats is rejected. The opposition has welcomed Jebali's proposal to appoint a cabinet of technocrats, but top members of the Ennahda party have rejected it. The veteran leader of the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, Rachid Ghannouchi, said 17 February 2013 the main parties agree on a limited Cabinet that would work toward holding new elections as quickly as possible. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali submitted his resignation 18 February 2013 after his attempt to form a government of non-partisan technocrats failed. His own Ennadha party, which dominates the government, did not support his attempt.

Interior Minister Ali Larayedh, a member of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party, was chosen as prime minister-designate by his peers 21 February 2013. He was tasked with forming a government within two weeks. Tunisia's new prime minister-designate promised to form a cabinet representing all Tunisians as political leaders try to smooth over a growing political crisis. Larayedh spent 15 years in prison under the previous regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and is largely seen as a moderate member of the party.

Tunisia's prime minister designate unveiled a new Islamist-led coalition government 08 March 2013, following last-minute talks aimed at averting a major political crisis. The deal, reached Friday just hours before a midnight deadline, includes members from the Islamist Ennahda party, the center-left Ettakatol, and the secular Congress for the Republic. The prime minister designate, Ali Larayedh, said the new team would serve only until an election is held by the end of 2013.

Protests erupted in Tunisia after the July 25, 2013 killing of outspoken opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi - who belonged to the nationalist and secular Popular Current party - outside his house in the capital, Tunis, the second political assassination in the country this year. The 58-year-old politician was a vocal critic of Tunisia's Islamist-led government and a member of the Constituent Assembly charged with drawing up the North African country's new constitution. The moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which dominated October 2011 elections and rules in a coalition with two secular parties, quickly condemned what it called "this cowardly and despicable crime." The opposition has criticized Ennahda for not cracking down on Islamist extremists.

The unrest erupted just weeks before the transitional Constituent Assembly was set to complete a draft of a new constitution. The secular opposition now demands that the 217-member body be dissolved. Seventy lawmakers have left it and set up a sit-in outside the assembly offices. On 29 July 2013 one of the junior coalition partners, the secular Ettakatol, threatened to resign if a new unity government was not formed. The opposition refused power sharing proposals offered by Ennahda's governing coalition. On 30 July 2013 the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) called for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government and creating a technocrat government led by an independent figure.

Almost three years after the Arab Spring began, Tunisians were still struggling with their revolution. Political gridlock and violence have paralyzed the country, sending its economy into a tailspin ahead of planned national elections and the formation of a new government. The National Salvation Front (NSF), an umbrella group of opposition parties led by the Nidaa Tounes party, demanded the governments dissolution, and was emboldened by what they have seen in Egypt, where opposition protests led to the militarys ouster of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood government. But the Tunisian army unlike its Egyptian counterpart had no tradition of political intervention.

The political landscape was dominated by two men who said elections were the best way forward: Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi and Beji Caid Essebsi, a former Ben Ali-era official who now led the main secular opposition party, Nida Tounes. The Islamist Ennahda party was more popular, flexible and willing to compromise than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Tunisian opposition had not been able to gather the masses that its Egyptian counterpart was able to mobilize, let alone the fact that the Tunisian army was neutral. Tunisian society and political parties learned from the Egyptian scenario that continued polarization would lead to confrontation and violence, which would obstruct efforts to rejuvenate tourism as a major source for revenues.

Tunisia's Prime Minister Ali Larayedh resigned 09 January 2014, in accordance with a plan to end months of political deadlock and allowing a caretaker government to oversee this year's elections. Under an accord brokered by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), he had agreed to resign once the sides decided on a caretaker cabinet, finished a new constitution and set a date for elections. Tunisia's Constitutional Assembly had just finished selecting a High Electoral Commission to oversee national elections later this year. A caretaker prime minister, Mehdi Jomaa, took his place. Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa led a caretaker cabinet into the 2014 election. Tunisia's ruling Islamist party and its opponents named Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa as prime minister in a caretaker technocrat cabinet to govern until the elections.



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