About 500 people demonstrated outside the plenary session of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) today, protesting broken promises by the government on the one-year anniversary of Tunisia’s first democratic elections.
The day also marks the non-binding, self-imposed deadline for the NCA to draft a new constitution, which assembly members now say they hope to finalize within another six months.
Several Constituent Assembly opposition parties, including the Democratic Bloc, boycotted the session, during which President Moncef Marzouki, Head of the NCA Mustapha Ben Jaafar, and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali all gave speeches commemorating the one-year anniversary.
“I see no reason to celebrate,” said Ibrahim Kassas, an NCA member of Al-Aridah who boycotted the session. “We promised our people that we would write a Constitution in 12 months and we haven’t been able to do that. ”
But members of the ruling Troika coalition focused on the progress Tunisia has made since the elections one year ago.
“Things are getting better,” Ben Jaafar said. “We are on the right track. The economic crisis is almost at its end and the touristic sector is picking up. We need now to concentrate on putting an end to the economic rift between the regions and finding a solution to the unemployment problem.”
Ben Jaafar added, “What we need most in this critical phase is security.”
Marzouki asserted that he supports the government and stressed the importance of national unity, warning against the dangers of polarization in the political scene.
“We need a constitution for the upcoming generations, not for the next elections,” he said. “National unity is our primary goal that we should strive to achieve.”
“On this historic day we watched Tunisians stand in line for hours to vote and launch a new phase by participating in elections that were applauded internationally,” he added.
At the protest, demonstrators held signs saying that the government’s legitimacy had expired.
Counter-protesters expressed their support for the government and waved signs that said “23 of October is Democracy Day.” Ennahdha supporters held party flags as well as white flags inscribed with the Islamic profession of faith.
Other protesters called for applying Shariaa law, shouting “Shariaa is our hope.”