By Asma Ghribi | Mar 1 2012Iyed Dahmani ,Mehrezia Labidi ,Modernist Democratic Pole ,PDM
The Constituent Assembly will be holding a meeting today with members of the government to discuss Tunisia's internal affairs. Representatives of the Constituent Assembly will evaluate the performance of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and his cabinet in confronting the numerous challenges facing the country.
The Democratic Group – an opposition front consisting of the Modernist Democratic Pole (PDM), the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Afek Tounes Party, and some independent lists – are threatening to boycott this session in protest of the decision of Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the head of the Constituent Assembly, to limit the allocated time for members to deliver their speeches to one minute per speaker.
Maya Jribi, prominent opposition leader and secretary general of the PDP, stated that limiting the speaking-time for each member to one minute is completely inadequate.
We have a lot to say. We were an inefficient opposition under the previous regime, and we refuse to play the same role now,” she added.
The opposition front submitted a proposal to Ben Jaafar, demanding an extension of speaking-time to one hour during the morning and afternoon sessions.
Iyed Dahmani, another member of the Constituent Assembly affiliated with the opposition, stated that due to the infrequency of these meetings, it is imperative that members be given adequate time to articulate their critique of the government’s performance. This is a monthly meeting. Do you think that one minute per member is enough? If the head of the Constituent Assembly does not meet our demands, we are absolutely boycotting this meeting, he asserted.
In response to the demands of the opposition, Mehrezia Labidi, vice president of the Constituent Assembly and a member of Ennahda, explained that the time allocated for the speeches was set in accordance with internal regulations of the assembly.
The head of the Constituent Assembly consulted with all the groups before setting the time. We respected internal regulatory law. Should they have any complaints, they can present a proposal that may be taken into account for the next meetings or even for this meeting. If they have any objections, and they don't wish to attend this monthly meeting, they are free to do so. This is how democracy works, Labidi stated.
Due to technical problems with the audio system, Ben Jaafar announced that the session would be delayed one hour.
Members of the Constituent Assembly in the opposition walked out the session. Jribi reiterated her frustration at the insufficient time allowed for each speaker as well as the long delay to the meeting as a result of earlier technical issues that had caused the morning session to start around noon.
After the Democratic Group left the floor, representatives of Al Aridha Chaabiya and Al Chaab followed suite, citing disappointment at the lackluster effort by the government to ensure transparency and accountability in public institutions.
After their withdrawal from the session, Ben Jaafar responded that these parties had not respected the internal regulations of the Constituent Assembly.
Ben Jaafar confirmed that members of the Constituent Assembly had expressed their wish to meet with the Ministers of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Social Affairs in order to present their criticisms directly and pose questions.
Concerning the recent assaults against protestors and journalists during last Saturday's protest, Minister of the Interior Ali Al Arayadh expressed that the manifestation had not been well-organized.
Al Arayadh explained that protestors had provoked the security forces on hand and paralyzed traffic in Habib Bourguiba Avenue, compelling police agents to protect public property and citizens as well.
Police agents warned the protestors and tried to disperse them. However, they refused so the police resorted to tear gas in order to
scatter them [¦] Some protestors were throwing empty bottles of alcoholic drinks. In fact, some of them were drunk, he stated.
These declarations from Al Arayadh created a wave of criticism in social networks, especially since videos that document some violent scenes at the hands of the police are circulating in the internet.
The Tunisian Minister of Interior mentioned that he had already opened an investigation and consequently called on journalists, who claim to have been attacked, to present their cases.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Rafik Abdesselam pointed out that some anarchic groups are planning to sabotage the government. “However, this government is resilient,” he affirmed. Some members of the Constituent Assembly applauded Abdesselam’s exclamation that “this government is the strongest in Tunisia’s political history” due to the fact that it truly represents the will of the majority.