Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tunisian Leaders Mark Third Anniversary of Ben Ali Departure Discreetly

Tunisia leaders mark uprising anniversary discreetly

AFP, Tuesday 14 Jan 2014

Tunisia's leaders participated Tuesday in a low-key ceremony to mark the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising, amid confusion about the timetable for adopting the long-delayed new constitution.

President Moncef Marzouki, outgoing prime minister Ali Larayedh and his designated successor, Mehdi Jomaa, attended the opening of the ceremony, in the Kasbah district of the capital where the government's headquarters are located, along with other top officials.

Demonstrations, notably by Larayedh's Islamist party Ennahda, are expected during the day on Habib Bourguiba avenue, epicentre of the mass protests that drove long-time autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power on 14 January, 2011 and sparked the Arab Spring.

But the adoption of the country's future charter, which was to coincide with the symbolic anniversary, has again been delayed. A third of the articles in the text have yet to be examined after nearly two weeks of debate and key provisions rejected by lawmakers during fractious sessions in parliament in recent days.

Tunisians are also awaiting the formation of a caretaker government of technocrats by the end of next week under Jomaa, the non-partisan former industry ministry tasked with leading the country to fresh elections.

His official appointment last week came under an agreement to end months of political deadlock, triggered by the assassination of an opposition MP last year by suspected Islamist militants, and get Tunisia's democratic transition back on track.

It also followed the voluntary resignation of Ennahda, which swept to power in Tunisia's first free elections in October 2011 but whose tenure has been overshadowed by a wave of jihadist violence, rising social unrest and two political crises.

In a televised speech Monday evening, President Marzouki admitted that the country's leaders had not satisfied the hopes that accompanied the uprising three years ago.

"We are very far from realising the objectives of the revolution," he said, while hailing the "miracle" that has preserved "freedom, security and modernity."

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