lundi 31 octobre 2011

Number of elected women: Tunisia vs. other countries

Those that follow politics in Arab countries know that Tunisia is a model when it comes to respect of women rights. The situation isn’t always perfect, particularly in the southern regions, but things are improving gradually. Among young people, attitudes are similar to those encountered in most modern countries in Europe and America.

The results of the first free election in the country and the way it unfolded are examples of this.

In fact, remember the historic decision taken by the ISIE (Independent High Authority for the Elections) last April of imposing parity between men and women on electoral lists. Not only was this resolution implemented across the country but it was accepted by all parties without any opposition.

This allowed for a respectable number of women to be elected on October 23rd. In total, 22.6% of the seats in the Assembly (49 out of 217) were won by women candidates.

For a first time election, these results are noteworthy especially when we compare them with the most developed countries in the world. The tables below present statistics on the percentage of women elected in other nations. Note that according to the standings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Tunisia is in 51st place in terms of feminine representation in parliament.

America vs Tunisia (%)


(Canadian province)

We see that Tunisia has more women in its Assembly that the United States Congress and isn’t also far behind Canada and the province of Quebec.

Europe vs Tunisia ( %)


United Kingdom
Czech Republic

It is worth noting that Tunisia has a higher percentage than France and the United Kingdom.

Balkans vs Tunisia (%)



Except for Macedonia, Tunisia has as many or more women in parliament than most Balkan countries.

Scandinavia vs Tunisia ( %)



Scandinavian nations unquestionably have the highest ratio of elected women.

Other countries vs Tunisia ( %)


South Africa
South Korea

Tunisia is already ahead of Israel, Japan and Turkey – a country that is regularly presented as a model in the Arab world.

Souad Abderrahim
N.B: Still on the subject of women in Tunisian politics, the most recent rumour emanating from is that the Islamic party Ennahda would soon put forward their star candidate Souad Abderrahim, elected in Tunis II, for the position of President of the Assembly. Mrs Abderrahim, a 46 year old pharmacist and mother of two children, was very active in student union movements in the 80’s. During the electoral campaign she drew media attention with her strong personality and because she was a rare Ennahda candidate not wearing the veil, a fact that the party often alluded to.

dimanche 30 octobre 2011

Who’s in charge ? The party leader or the candidates ?

Hechmi Hamdi

Without a doubt, the controversy of Tunisia’s first election is the Al Aridha Chaabia party and its obscure leader Hechmi Hamdi.

Let’s quickly go over the facts. The day after the election, Monday October 24th, initial results published by the ISIE (Independent supreme instance for the elections) revealed modest gains for this practically unknown party. At first, Aridha Chaabia won seats in rural regions of Tunisia.

As the ISIE results continued coming in over the following days, the party was winning seats in various areas across the country. Aridha Chaabia finally wound up in third place with 28 seats, only two less than the Congrès pour la République (CPR). Pretty impressive for a party unknown to journalists before the election.

However, this seemed too good to be true. Questions were being asked: how could an unknown party nearly finish in second place?

Accusations of electoral fraud were expressed by various groups. Two days after the election, as the final results were still being tabulated, ISIE president Kamel Jendoubi suggested that some Aridha Chaabia lists might be invalidated,

While presenting the final results of the election on Thursday evening, the ISIE confirmed suspicions by announcing that six lists (nine seats) were disqualified.

In response to this announcement, Hechmi Hamdi stated that he was withdrawing all his electoral lists from the Constituent Assembly and that no legal action would be undertaken.

In a surprising turn of events though, the 19 non-disqualified candidates have chosen to ignore Hechmi Hamdi’s decision and said they will be in attendance at the Assembly.

The official logo of Aridha Chaabia.
Worse yet, disqualified candidates have decided to oppose ISIE’s conclusion in court which is in disagreement with their leader’s pronouncement.

Finally, not to be outdone in this political soap opera, Hechmi Hamdi retracted his announcement only a few hours after making it and asked for forgiveness for his comments following the ISIE’s decision.

As stated by his candidates, M. Hamdi now maintains that all 19 elected members of his party will participate in the Assembly and that the others will be contesting ISIE’s conclusions in court.

Obviously the party leader not only has problems with the ISIE but he also has to deal with a serious lack of discipline within his troops. This drama will continue to unfold has the nine disqualified candidates will shortly undertake legal measures. Expect that this isn’t the last surprising turn of events for this party…

An Islamist Prime Minister and a progressive President?

Hamadi Jebali

The election is now complete – discussions in Tunisia are henceforth about the next government and the recent electoral fraud. Except for a few isolated incidents, the president of the ISIE, Kamel Jendoubi, declared that the vote was fair and that the infractions by some of the parties did not stain the credibility of the results.

At the moment, rumors surrounding the start of the Assembly’s work are at the center of attention. Since the first results were revealed, Ennadha has taken up most of the space in the negotiations – not surprising, considering their performance at the elections.

Ennadha disposes of very large means since they are the only party that can form a majority, albeit needing a coalition with another political group. For this reason, they have already proposed a candidate for Prime Minister and have also speculated as to who the next interim President might be.

The man Ennadha wishes to propose as Prime Minister is Hamadi Jebali – currently the party’s secretary general and supporter since the early eighties. He is an engineer from Sousse and was very active in presenting the party’s ideas to the media during the electoral campaign.

Aware of their status as a minority government and of Tunisian’s fears of a lone ruling party, Ennadha is looking for an alliance with a progressive leader. The goal would be to have that leader as interim president until the next legislative elections. Rumors suggest that there are three candidates the religious party is considering – CPR leader Moncef Marzouki, Ettakatol’s Mustapha Ben Jaafar and Béji Caid Essebsi, current Prime Minister. 

The choice of Marzouki is the most likely of the three. Whatever his supporters and candidates of the party have said, he never really rejected the idea of an alliance with Ennadha during the campaign – unlike the rest of progressive leaders. The only problem with his candidacy is that Mr. Marzouki wishes to keep the Assembly intact for more than a year – an idea not too popular among the masses and the other parties. CPR is the only major party that has not signed the agreement mandating a fixed one-year life span for the Assembly.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the leader of Ettakatol.
Interim Prime Minister Essebsi has said he is considering the offer. Local newspaper El Maghreb reported that he is Enndha’s first choice.

The nomination of Mustapha Ben Jaafar, popular politician among Tunisians, could be a very good thing for the Islamic party since they wish to offer the country a “largeunited government”. However, Jaafar’s party members have voiced their concerns over such a nomination since Ettakatol leaders had said many times that they would not have such an alliance.

One major aspect that could really make a difference at the Assembly is the formation of a majority government – one that would have the power to name the interim government and to write the country’s first constitution. The next decisions that are made could have a very long-term impact on Tunisia – surely this is a sign that the election was a historic event…

vendredi 28 octobre 2011

Confirmation : Islamists win minority government amidst controversy

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda.

The full results of the Tunisian elections have been announced at 10:00 pm local time by the Independent supreme instance for the elections (ISIE) at the Tunis press center.

ISIE president, Kamel Jendoubi, revealed to the media that Ennadha obtained 41% of the vote (90 seats on 217). As predicted, Tunisia’s next government will be a minority, so it is safe to say coalitions and alliances will probably arise. Also noteworthy is that 24% of elected officials are women – quite a large number for a first time election and even more so for an Arab country.

CPR and Ettakatol have finished far behind with 30 and 21 seats respectively, giving them second and third positions. The PDP, after experiencing a terrible start in the diaspora, made a surprise comeback and scored 17 seats to finish fifth. Their leader, Ahmed Néjib Chebbi, has stated that they will remain in the opposition and won’t accept any alliance with Ennadha.

The 40 remaining seats were won by a variety of parties and independent candidates. The PDM and Afek Tounes, who had hoped to obtain between 10 and 15, were disappointed to learn that they had only gotten five and four. For a complete picture of the results, see here.

However, today’s big news wasn’t the final results but rather when ISIE announced it had stripped 9 seats from Aridha Chaabia because of electoral fraud and the presence of ex-Ben Ali government members on their lists. The announcement caused a media frenzy and was met with applause at the press center. Their seats fell from 28 to 19, placing them in fourth.

In response to ISIE’s decision, Mohamed Hachmi Hamdi, leader of Aridha Chaabia, stated that he has withdrawn all candidates from the electoral lists and that none of the elected officials would serve in the Assembly. He added that he did not have the intention of contesting the matter in court.

Tires were burned on the streets of Sidi Bouzid.
As soon as the news was announced to the pubic, angry crowds gathered in Sidi Bouzid, home of Mr. Hamdi and the place where his party obtained their best results, and began rioting. Citizens burned down the mayor’s office and ransacked Ennadha’s headquarters. On social media sites, video and pictures were posted depicting violent clashed between protesters and police.

It was reported that protesters had started their assault on Ennadha’s HQ earlier in the day because of their secretary general’s announcement that there would be no coalition with Aridha Chaabia.

The immense surprise surrounding the results of this relatively unknown party is still the focus of the media’s attention. Many suspect that Mr. Hamdi used to be an ally of Ben Ali and that he used his TV station to boost his own party illegally during the campaign.

For more info on the controversy, click here.

jeudi 27 octobre 2011

Suspense on the Election results and the start of protests

These elections are the first in the history of Tunisia, it is therefore quite normal that delays and setbacks are often. In a way, ISIE’s decision to postpone the results and assure a true count is a very noble act. In the Ben Arous riding, the seven ballot boxes were entirely recounted because some of the staff had doubts about the original count.

So, the results aren’t in yet – if there are no more delays, they should be announced Thursday evening.

With that said, as of Wednesday, 70% of ballots have been counted – 159 seats on 217. Islamic party Ennadha still leads with 65 elected officials and their victory is almost certain. It is also very likely that they will be in a minority government since they would need 44 of a possible 58 seats left for a majority.

Tied for second place are Aridha Chabbia and CPR, each with 22 seats. Ettakatol is in fourth with 13.

The main question that remains to be answered is this : which parties will form a majority coalition at the Assembly? The time for rumors is behind us now – CPR’s leader, Moncef Marzouki said today that his party was willing to negotiate with Ennadha.

Moncef Marzouki, leader of the CPR.
He also insisted on the fact that CPR would make no compromises regarding individual liberties and women’s rights. If he felt that these were being impeded, he would immediately end the coalition. What is strange though is that one of the party’s treasurers rejected the idea of a center left alliance – something that had been said many times before the election.

This potential coalition between Ennadha and CPR risks quickly running into a serious roadblock since both parties have repeated their desires for their own sort of legislative system. Ennadha still wants a one house parliamentary system (for the reasons that I have explained in this article) and CPR wants a semi-presidential one.

In other news, Ennadha’s leader, Rached Gannouchi stated that he would propose the secretary general of his party, Hamadi Jelali as Prime Minister, because “that job should belong to the party that finished first” he said.

Finally, protests occurred yesterday against the Islamic party around the Tunis convention center. Some 200 protesters brandished signs and spoke out against what they believed were unfair electoral practices as well as Ennadha’s religious agenda. An important police force watched over the proceedings.

Follow the results of the election live here and here.