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Carter Center Calls for Action by Tunisia Parliament to Reinforce the Judiciary and Accelerate Electoral Preparations

Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,
In Tunisia, Fida Nasrallah,

TUNIS - It has been a little more than a year since Tunisia's Assembly of the Representatives of the People took up its work. The Carter Center commends the ARP for the important strides it has made in consolidating the rule of law - through the timely implementation of the Provisional Authority for the Control of the Constitutionality of Draft Laws - and for adopting legislation creating the Constitutional Court. The Center equally appreciates the actions of the provisional authority that has worked rigorously to review the constitutionality of draft laws. However, the Center notes that there have been delays in adopting laws in several crucial areas and urges the assembly to continue efforts to establish the constitutional bodies and pass the laws needed to reap the full benefits of the revolution.

While there are various reasons for these legislative delays - some beyond the control of the ARP - urgent action is needed to meet the constitutional deadlines for the establishment of the High Judicial Council and the Constitutional Court. Electoral legislation, including a law governing municipal boundary delimitations, is also critical in order to hold municipal and regional elections as scheduled.

One of the main goals in post-revolutionary Tunisia is to ensure the separation of powers between an independent judiciary and the executive. The Carter Center is especially concerned about delays in establishing the HJC, which is constitutionally mandated to safeguard the tenure of judges and to provide guarantees to magistrates in matters of nomination, promotion, and discipline. The establishment of the judicial council will help guarantee the independence and proper functioning of the justice system. Legislation governing its establishment has been repeatedly hampered by the authority's failure to pass constitutional review.

The HJC bill has faced multiple hurdles. The assembly passed the bill twice, only to see it twice rejected on constitutionality by the provisional authority. In the future, the legislative branch should exert greater rigor in its examination of draft legislation, even pieces submitted by the government, to facilitate their later implementation.

The Carter Center is also concerned about delays in the actual establishment of the Constitutional Court, which was mandated by the constitution to be in place by November 2015. Delays in the creation of the higher judicial council directly affect the establishment of the constitutional court, as the council is responsible for nominating four of its 12 members. The urgency in the need to establish the court derives from the temporary nature of the provisional authority. The body's transient character and limited powers have hindered the constitutional review process of legislation passed under the Ben Ali regime and prevented the body from pronouncing on some matters with long-term ramifications.

The lack of progress also threatens the timeline for the regional and municipal elections, scheduled for Oct. 30, 2016. Although the government has recently presented a project to amend the electoral law that integrates provisions for regional and municipal elections to the assembly for urgent review, accompanying legislation to establish municipal boundary delimitations is still needed. This legislation should be introduced to the assembly as soon as possible, as it will require an inclusive review process. Moreover, the election authority, political parties, and civil society organizations cannot prepare effectively for the municipal elections until new boundaries are created. If elections are to be held in 2016, the ARP should fast-track this legislation. It is also advisable that it pass a law on decentralization well in advance of municipal and regional elections to facilitate greater understanding of the roles and powers of elected municipal and regional bodies.

The Center also urges the ARP to respect chapter 6 of the constitution, which calls for the legislative branch to create and facilitate the work of five independent authorities. Of the five independent authorities, three are yet to be established (the Human Rights Authority, the Authority for Sustainable Development and the Rights of Future Generations, and the Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Authority). One should be reformed (the Audio-Visual Communication Authority), and, though already established, the Independent High Authority for Elections requires selection and approval of some new members.

While urgent progress should be made on the legislative front, The Carter Center also encourages the election authority to move forward to implement the recommendations made in its report following the 2014 elections. Several could be implemented without further action from the assembly, including increasing civic engagement for the municipal elections and engaging with political parties and civil society on voter outreach.

Since the completion of Tunisia's parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2014, The Carter Center has been closely following the work of the assembly, including the process of harmonizing the ideals of the new constitution with existing domestic legislation and new legislation under consideration.

In the spirit of respect and support, The Carter Center makes the following recommendations to help advance the process:

To the president of the republic:

  1. Use the powers provided under the constitution to select the final four members of the Constitutional Court to achieve gender parity among its members, if needed.
  2. Use these same powers to take into account the need for diversity in juridical and non-juridical expertise among the Constitutional Court members to contribute to its optimal and effective functioning.

To the assembly:

  1. Pass the law on the High Judicial Council so that the Constitutional Court can be created and reform of the judiciary can move forward.
  2. Pass the law for the regional and municipal elections, and associated legislation governing boundary delimitations, according to the proposed roadmap, so that elections can be held without undue delay. Elections have been suggested for Oct. 30, 2016, which will require significant efforts.
  3. Conduct a transparent and inclusive review of the electoral constituency boundaries for all levels of elections. On a municipal level, ensure that boundaries are based on objective criteria. New municipal boundaries should also undergo a thorough review process in the localities that will be affected by them.

To the election authority:

  1. Begin conducting a voter education campaign with political parties and civil society organizations, focusing on the need to update voter registration information before the municipal elections. This should include steps to encourage young people and rural women who do not yet possess a national identity card to obtain one to allow their inclusion in the electoral register.
  2. Hold regular meetings with representatives of NGOs, political parties and potential independent candidates to enhance the participatory approach of the election authority.




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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.