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Tunisia’s constitutional assembly, elected after a revolution that inspired the “Arab Spring” uprisings, held its opening session on Tuesday, described by officials as an historic step toward democracy.
The assembly, which will sit for a year to draft a new constitution, is dominated by a moderate Islamist party whose election win last month resonated in other countries in the region where Islamists are gaining ground after the popular protests which swept three Arab heads of state from power.
Members of the assembly, senior officials in the incoming coalition government, and ministers in the outgoing cabinet stood for the Tunisian national anthem in a ceremony to open the 217-seat assembly.
“This is an historic moment…for the transition to democracy,” Fouad Mebazza, the outgoing interim president, said at the ceremony, in the same building where the previous rubber-stamp parliament sat before the revolution…
Tunisia’s government will be dominated by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which emerged from the election with the biggest contingent in the assembly, but short of a majority…
Ennahda has shared out the top three state posts with two smaller, secularist parties. Hamadi Jbeli, Ennahda’s secretary general, will be prime minister, the most powerful role.
Moncef Marzouki, head of coalition partner the Congress for the Republic, will have the largely ceremonial post of Tunisian president. Mustafa Ben Jaafar, leader of the Ettakatol party, was nominated as speaker of the new assembly. A new cabinet line-up, with posts shared out between the three coalition partners, is to be announced soon.
In its first act, the assembly voted to confirm Ben Jaafar as speaker.
RTFA for details of this and that. I’ve made myself a bit of a permanent note to follow the difficult process of growing into democracy. There are foreseeable cultural problems at every turn. We must give credit where and when due to this brave nation setting forth on a new path.