A promising step for Tunisia’s (potential) democratic transition is the decision to have the first election following the fall of the dictator be for a constituent assembly. It has been announced that the election will be 24 July.
It is not clear (to me) what either the shape of the emerging party system or the electoral system might be. But one item, on Magherabia.com, offers some hints, in reporting on a conference that took place in Tunis on 3 March.
“After we realised the first miracle, which is the miracle of revolution, we now need to realise a second miracle, which is the miracle of democracy, freedom and peace,” Culture Minister Ezzeddine Bach Chaouch said at the opening of the two-day seminar.
The event was organised by the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Centre (KADEM) in co-operation with the Citizenship Centre for the Promotion of Democracy (Mouwatana).
On the possible party system:
The political map is not clear for the time being, according to Kawakibi Centre President Mohsen Marzouk. “The Left is divided into several factions,” he said.
“In the midst of that, the Islamic current seems to be the only organised entity. In addition, they have several cadres who were living abroad and returned to Tunisia after acquiring several experiences,” Marzouk said. He added that he expects the development of a centre-right faction composed of people opposed to both the radical left and the Islamists.
Now, on the electoral system (not that this is highly enlightening):
They [conference participants] also stressed the need to establish an electoral system that would ensure a fair representation of women, young people and minorities. Contributors added that the new system must ensure that weak parties are not marginalised by a single political party in the next constituent assembly.
In addition, participants called for “cancelling the majority system that contradicts democracy and adopting a list system through individual voting in two rounds or a comprehensive list system of voting”.
I am not quite sure what a list system through individual voting in two rounds might be. Here’s hoping they go with the “comprehensive list system,” by which I would understand PR with a low threshold. It seems the best way for a first-ever democratic election in a setting where the shape of the party system hardly can be known.
(I am filing this, and any future entries on North Africa, under “Euro-Mediterranean” because the spirit of creating a “block” with that title some years ago was to emphasize the geographic and historical continuity of the Mediterranean–all its shores–and Europe. Now, Libya aside, we might even see a democratic community develop around the Great Sea. We can dare to hope, anyway…)
Ireland’s new Government of National Recovery, as the coalition consisting of Fine Gael and Labour is to be called, took office Wednesday.
The coalition agreement* begins,
On the 25th February a democratic revolution took place in Ireland. Old beliefs, traditions and expectations were blown away. The stroke of a pen, in thousands of polling stations, created this political whirlwind. The public demanded change and looked to parties that would deliver the change they sought.
Among the commitments regarding political reform is to abolish the second chamber (Seanad), subject to voter approval in a referendum (p.18).
A Constitutional Convention is to be established. It will consider several amendments, including reduction of the presidential term to five years “and aligning it with the local and European
Also included are plans to restrict campaign spending, consideration of lowering the voting age to 17, and working to increase the representation of women. “We will ask the Constitutional Convention, which is examining electoral reform, to make recommendations as to how the number of women in politics can be increased,” it says (p. 20). No guidelines about what sort of electoral reforms might be considered are given.
There are a series of proposed reforms dealing with legislative procedure, including more time for question periods, fewer committees but with constitutional recognition for key committees, and more opportunity for debating non-government bills (pp. 21-2).
Perhaps it is simply too much to ask, but the media could help readers understand the dynamic of the unfolding French presidential race if only they would throw in a sentence somewhere near the top of the article about how the French president is actually elected.
Typical is the Telegraph story with the headline that Marine Le Pen “would beat Nicolas Sarkozy” and the subtitle that amplifies, “Marine Le Pen, the French National Front’s new leader, stands to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the presidential election next year.”
Somewhere farther down, it does say that “only the top two candidates can reach the second round.” But by then, the reader who even gets that far could be forgiven for concluding that a Le Pen was practically on the verge of becoming the President of the Republic.
For the record, the recent “shock poll” has the three front-runners–Le Pen, Sarkozy, and possible Socialist candidate Martine Aubry–at either 21% or 23%, and the French president has to win a MAJORITY to be elected.
I do not make a lot of predictions on this blog, but I will go out on a limb here: Marine Le Pen is not going to win the presidential election.
No comments had appeared for a couple of days, at least. And not even spam. That always makes me suspicious. Sure enough, the settings for “users must be registered and logged in to comment” and “administrator must always approve a new comment” were checked again. I did not check them.
So, even with the changing of passwords, upgrading to new Word Press, and stripping out of some suspicious code, something is still amiss.
This item, near the end of an Al Jazeera article on the pro-Gaddafi offensive against the rebel-held city of Marsa El Brega, surprised me:
Meanwhile, the rebel National Libyan Council in east Libya called for UN-backed air strikes on foreign mercenaries used by Gaddafi against his own people.
Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the council based in Benghazi, told a news conference that Gaddafi was using “African mercenaries in Libyan cities” which amounted to an invasion of the oil producing North African nation.
“We call for specific attacks on strongholds of these mercenaries,” he said, but added: “The presence of any foreign forces on Libyan soil is strongly opposed. There is a big difference between this and strategic air strikes.”
Such a request would go a step or more beyond the previously requested imposition of a “no-fly zone.” However, even the latter operation would entail airstrikes and complex logistics, implying the operational distinction is not as great as it at first seems. Tactically, it would be a much bigger intervention, however. It would go beyond merely denying Gaddafi the means to use loyal air forces and entail destruction of fighting assets, and, obviously, significant casualties.
So my question for readers: is armed intervention (of what ever form) a good idea?
This is well beyond my field of specialization. But, for what it may be worth, part of me suspects the US and allies will end up intervening anyway. This regime and its maniacal leader are not going quietly, and there is a serious risk of a “failed state” situation. Such a result on the northern shores of the Mediterranean is, without exaggeration, a serious threat (shipping lanes, refugee flows, potential terrorism, etc.) that Europe and the US can’t abide. So is it better to intervene sooner than later?
Of course, there is another side of me that says foreign intervention can only make a bad situation worse.
I don’t know, but I am sure glad I don’t have to make the decision.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4