Tunisia: Constituent Assembly election, 2011

On 23 October 2011, an election to the Constituent Assembly was held in Tunisia.

  • The elections have been tagged as Tunisia’s first truly free elections, the culmination of a popular uprising that set off similar rebellions across the Middle East.
  • The Tunisians voted a 217-seat assembly that will appoint a new government and then write a new constitution. It was the first election held in Tunisia since the start of the Arab Spring.


Preliminary results for recent election give a commanding lead to Ennahda Party, but not an overall majority, in the first democratic elections prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings. The Ennahda Party has emerged as top party after election and its victory, especially in a comparatively secular society like Tunisia, could have wide implications for similar religious parties in the region.

What is Ennahda Party?

Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party, had vowed to uphold democracy, yet it is bent on imposing a theocracy that would roll back hard-won secularism and women’s rights. Some say that this is an opportunity to bring a moderate form of political Islam into the Arab world. The Ennahda Party was brutally crushed by overthrown dictator Ben Ali in the 1990s, a policy tacitly approved by Western powers wary of militant Islam. Ennahda has explicitly pledged to champion democratic values and women’s rights, but its secular critics warn the party has a secret agenda to impose hardline Islam. Once in power, many warn, Ennahda would swiftly seek to put its Islamist stamp on this tourist-friendly nation of 10 million. Tunisia’s post-independence 1956 personal status code was unique in the Middle East and outlawed polygamy, mandated the woman’s approval to get married and set limits on the man’s power to divorce. It also declared men and women to be equal in terms of rights and citizenship.

Who will be next prime Minister?

The Ennahda Party has put forward its number two, Secretary General Hamadi Jebali, as the next prime minister. The party is currently in coalition talks with the secular parties.

Mr Jebali, 62, is an engineer by training and a former journalist. He was a co-founder of Ennahda. A vehement opponent of the ousted president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Mr Jebali spent 16 years in jail – 10 in isolation – for his political activities. Jebali is considered a proponent of the reformist wing of his party.

Future Plans of Ennahda Party

The Ennahda Party has sought to reassure secularists and investors, nervous about the prospect of Islamists holding power in one of the Arab world’s most liberal countries, by saying it would not stop tourists wearing bikinis on the beaches nor impose Islamic banking. It’s worth note that foreign tourism is a major source of revenue for Tunisia. There has been a promise that there will be no bans on bikinis and alcohol. In Finance sector also, it has been said that the Islamic banks will not be established across the country, the banking system in Tunisia will not be changed and the activity of businessmen will not be limited. On the contrary, they will be backed for attracting Arab and foreign investments.



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