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Carter Center Calls on Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly and Political Actors to Advance Electoral Preparations

Contact: In Atlanta, Deborah Hakes 1 404 420-5124 dhakes@emory.edu
In Tunis, Marion Volkmann +216 50 666 649 marion.volkmann@tunisia.cceom.org

Read the full statement (PDF)

Tunisia's political leaders have devoted substantial efforts over the past several months to overcome the country's political crisis. Following the selection of a new candidate for prime minister, The Carter Center urges the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) to prioritize the creation of a new election commission while debates on the constitution and an electoral law are ongoing. The election law should clearly delineate the responsibilities of the election commission and other supporting bodies, as well as establish clear timelines for implementation. These steps are urgently needed to facilitate credible elections within a reasonable timeframe.

The organization of successful elections is dependent on several critical stakeholders. The Independent High Authority for the Elections or the Instance Supérieure Indépendante pour les Elections (ISIE) will assume the primary role in implementing the elections. Since July, the formation of the ISIE has been faced with legal challenges to the ISIE law in the Administrative Tribunal. These challenges highlight the importance of drafting legislation in clear and unambiguous language. At the same time, the legal challenges to the NCA's implementation of the law should not completely overshadow the broad political consensus achieved within the assembly on the eight ISIE members elected in the plenary in July 2013. The level of overall support for the final candidates for ISIE membership suggests that a consensual solution to the current legal impasse is within reach. The Carter Center calls on political actors to agree on a solution urgently, as continued delays in forming the ISIE jeopardize Tunisia's progress toward holding successful elections.

The formation of the ISIE is one of several steps in Tunisia's political transition. The NCA also must ratify the constitution, adopt an electoral law, and allocate an appropriate budget to support the ISIE's work. If elected in a timely manner, the commission could use this interim period to focus on the practical and substantive aspects of its development, while the NCA addresses key constitutional and legislative issues. Depending on the choice of electoral system, the legal framework, and efforts to update the voter register, it is unrealistic to expect that elections — particularly parliamentary elections — could be conducted in fewer than six months after the establishment of the ISIE, including the establishment of its internal structures, ratification of the constitution and passage of an electoral law. The Carter Center encourages the NCA to concentrate its efforts on resolving the challenges to the ISIE selection process and facilitating its formation, even while Tunisia's other pressing political issues are under discussion.

The NCA has a crucial role to play in ensuring the success of the elections, notably in adopting a comprehensive election law. It should therefore endeavor to learn from the lessons of the ISIE selection process and invest sufficient time and resources to prepare a legally sound and clear electoral law. The law should delineate clearly the authority and responsibilities of the election commission and other supporting bodies and establish clear timelines for its implementation. While The Carter Center recognizes that the NCA is under considerable pressure to schedule elections at the earliest date possible, it encourages the assembly to balance these pressures with the need for a comprehensive electoral framework that can support a credible electoral process and the fundamental right of citizens to participate in public affairs.[1]Investing time into drafting the law, including appropriate consultative mechanisms with experts and civil society representatives, would contribute to ensuring a smooth electoral pathway and reduce the potential for significant delays at later points in the process.

Democratic and credible elections are crucial in supporting the genuine expression of the will of the Tunisian people. Elections could also play a key role in restoring confidence in the Tunisian political process and state institutions. The Carter Center therefore makes the following recommendations to NCA members and to stakeholders involved in the national dialogue, the government, political parties, and civil society:

  • To prioritize the formation of the ISIE in order to allow its members to establish the body as a permanent, independent, and properly functioning institution. This undertaking may necessitate several months.
  • To allocate an appropriate budget in the 2014 finance law, which is currently under consideration, to ensure that the new ISIE can conduct its work.
  • To devote sufficient time and expertise to drafting the election law to help guarantee that elections are organized under a comprehensive and clear legal framework. The law should address all components necessary to ensure democratic elections in accordance with Tunisia's national and international obligations. The NCA may benefit from discussions with civil society organizations and legal experts, as well as the lessons learned from the difficulties encountered in interpreting and implementing the ISIE Law in 2012.
  • To allow the ISIE an opportunity to develop an electoral calendar that takes into account an appropriate sequence and timing of electoral operations to conduct the critical task of national elections before the NCA sets a date for the next elections.

Following its observation of the October 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections, The Carter Center is monitoring the constitution-making process and developments related to the establishment of institutional and legal frameworks for subsequent elections. The Center assesses these processes against Tunisia's national laws and international treaty obligations.

1 ICCPR, Article 25 (b), and UN General Comment 25.

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"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

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Translations

Le Centre Carter appelle l'Assemblée Nationale Constituante et les acteurs politiques à faire avancer les préparatifs des prochaines élections

مركز كارتر يدعو المجلس الوطني التأسيسي و الفاعلين السياسيين إلى المضيّ قدما في تحضير الانتخابات

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