A promising step for Tunisia’s (potential) democratic transition is the decision to have the first election following the fall of the dictator be for a constituent assembly. It has been announced that the election will be 24 July.
It is not clear (to me) what either the shape of the emerging party system or the electoral system might be. But one item, on Magherabia.com, offers some hints, in reporting on a conference that took place in Tunis on 3 March.
“After we realised the first miracle, which is the miracle of revolution, we now need to realise a second miracle, which is the miracle of democracy, freedom and peace,” Culture Minister Ezzeddine Bach Chaouch said at the opening of the two-day seminar.
The event was organised by the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Centre (KADEM) in co-operation with the Citizenship Centre for the Promotion of Democracy (Mouwatana).
On the possible party system:
The political map is not clear for the time being, according to Kawakibi Centre President Mohsen Marzouk. “The Left is divided into several factions,” he said.
“In the midst of that, the Islamic current seems to be the only organised entity. In addition, they have several cadres who were living abroad and returned to Tunisia after acquiring several experiences,” Marzouk said. He added that he expects the development of a centre-right faction composed of people opposed to both the radical left and the Islamists.
Now, on the electoral system (not that this is highly enlightening):
They [conference participants] also stressed the need to establish an electoral system that would ensure a fair representation of women, young people and minorities. Contributors added that the new system must ensure that weak parties are not marginalised by a single political party in the next constituent assembly.
In addition, participants called for “cancelling the majority system that contradicts democracy and adopting a list system through individual voting in two rounds or a comprehensive list system of voting”.
I am not quite sure what a list system through individual voting in two rounds might be. Here’s hoping they go with the “comprehensive list system,” by which I would understand PR with a low threshold. It seems the best way for a first-ever democratic election in a setting where the shape of the party system hardly can be known.
(I am filing this, and any future entries on North Africa, under “Euro-Mediterranean” because the spirit of creating a “block” with that title some years ago was to emphasize the geographic and historical continuity of the Mediterranean–all its shores–and Europe. Now, Libya aside, we might even see a democratic community develop around the Great Sea. We can dare to hope, anyway…)