Carter Center Urges Tunisia to Ensure Full Legislative Authority for Parliament

For Immediate Release
Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,
In Tunis, Fida Nasrallah,, + 216 94 556 461

En français

TUNIS — The Carter Center commends Tunisia’s parliament, the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP), for its efforts to strengthen legal protections for the fundamental rights provided for in the 2014 Constitution and to establish key constitutionally mandated institutions. While important progress has been made in these areas during the last two years, the Center recommends that the ARP take steps to ensure it has full legislative authorities so that it can fulfill its duties to pass important legislation.

The ARP has passed laws to establish the Supreme Judicial Council and the Constitutional Court, passed the law on the right of access to information, and amended criminal code procedures to improve the rights of defendants. Further advancement of Tunisia’s democratic transition, however, has been hindered by the lack of several important laws, including amendments to the electoral law presented by the government that are needed in order to organize municipal polls.

While a number of factors have slowed progress, one hindrance is a lack of clarity about the extent of the ARP’s legislative authorities and prerogatives under the new constitution. This is due in part to a June 2015 decision made by the Provisional Authority for the Control of the Constitutionality of the Draft Laws (known by its French acronym IPCCPL) while considering the law to organize the Supreme Judicial Council. According to the ruling, ARP standing legislative committees cannot make substantive amendments to bills submitted to it by the executive branch. This IPCCPL decision has led the APR to narrowly interpret its legislative powers, as legislators limited their work and sometimes adopted inconsistent decisions.

A case in point is the work of the ARP’s Committee on the Rules of Procedures, Immunity, Parliamentary Legislation and Election Law in its consideration of amendments to electoral legislation. The committee noted shortcomings in the electoral law but was hampered by its desire to avoid having the IPCCPL sanction the committee’s work by rejecting the law on constitutional grounds.

As a result, the committee applied the jurisprudence of the provisional authority inconsistently. It amended an article in the electoral law that the government had not intended to amend (addressing penalties in connection with the control of campaign financing) but refrained from amending provisions relating to campaign regulations, which the government equally had not intended to amend, deferring consideration to the plenary.

There is also a lack of clarity about whether the ARP plenary has the mandate under its rules of procedure to amend bills submitted by the executive. The Committee on the Rules of Procedure had refrained from amending the government’s bill, deferring amendments to the plenary, which enjoys sovereign authority. Paradoxically, when the plenary considered the draft law, certain amendments not covered by the government’s initial draft were withdrawn on the basis that substantively amending the government’s bill, even in plenary, would be contrary to the assembly’s rules of procedure. Such an interpretation seems overly restrictive, constraining the ARP’s ability to enact a legislation that best reflects its own will or vision.

In short, the ARP’s legislative functions are severely curtailed both by the imposed limitations on its committee work by the IPCCPCL and its restrictive interpretation of the legislative authority of the ARP in plenary. These limits are in addition to those already established by the constitution, which gives priority to bills presented by the executive (Article 62) over those presented by lawmakers on similar topics. The constitution also limits the legislative powers of the ARP to certain issue areas of organic and ordinary laws (Article 65). While ARP members have the right to present bills, in practice, such draft laws are rarely examined by the relevant commissions because priority is given to bills from the government. As a result, the ARP is not exercising its legislative role in a manner consistent with the principle of separation of powers enshrined in the constitution.

It is worth nothing that these limitations do not seem to comply with the intentions of the drafters of the constitution in the National Constituent Assembly, whose deliberations suggest that the ARP was envisioned as the major institution in the new political system of Tunisia.

The Carter Center also notes that the ARP appears to attribute exceptional authority to the Consensus Committee, an informal committee formed largely by the chairpersons of the parliamentary blocs, a practice inherited from the National Constituent Assembly in 2013 that proved useful in adopting compromise solutions at a time of acute political crisis. Parliamentary blocs have tacitly agreed to maintain the Consensus Committee to resolve thorny legal disagreements among deputies. While the Consensus Committee deliberations are useful for achieving compromise, the mechanism is not addressed in the ARP’s rules of procedure.

As a result, critical legislative debates have shifted away from the ARP plenary to this informal body, preventing parliamentarians from debating some essential aspects of legislation in public plenary sessions, and leading MPs to endorse the decisions of parliamentary blocs in the name of party discipline. While useful in moving difficult legislative initiatives forward, the informal nature of the Consensus Committee meetings has the potential to limit open legislative deliberation and prevent transparency in policy making, and sometimes results in inconsistent and conflicting laws.

Finally, the Center also notes with concern the ARP’s delay in finalizing several important actions, including the election of members of the Authority on Access to Information (AAI), and the replacement of council members of the Truth and Dignity Commission (known by its French acronym, IVD) who have resigned or were dismissed. This latter is particularly critical as the IVD no longer has the requisite numbers to validate its decisions.

In the spirit of mutual respect and support, The Carter Center offers the following recommendations to the ARP to strengthen its powers and move the legislative process forward:

  • Amend the assembly’s rules of procedure to clarify the legislative powers of standing legislative committees and the plenary. In doing so, the ARP should avoid an overly restrictive perception of its legislative mandate and enable instead open deliberation of draft legislation submitted by the government.
  • Examine the status and functioning of the Consensus Committee in the Assembly’s legislative activity and the rules of procedure and take steps to encourage greater transparency.
  • Submit the rules of procedure to the Constitutional Court as soon as the latter is established.
  • Following the establishment of the Supreme Judicial Council, elect the members of the Constitutional Court and finalize the election of the AAI, and bring the IVD to full membership to ensure its full functioning.


يحث مركز كارتر تونس على ان تضمن للسلطة التشريعية صلاحياتها المكتملة 

Le Centre Carter exhorte la Tunisie à assurer la plénitude de l’autorité législative du Parlement


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A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 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.