Tunisian PM says won't fight election delay

27th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi said Friday that elections planned for July 24 will be delayed if the electoral commission deems it necessary.

The poll "has not yet been delayed, but the commission estimates that we need a little more time for these elections to be irreproachable, fair and transparent," the head of the interim government told a press briefing on the sidelines of a G8 summit in northern France.

"We will do it if the commission judges it necessary," Caid Essebsi said, opening the way to a delay as already recommended by the commission, which has been at odds with the transitional authorities.

The electoral panel organising the poll for a constituent assembly in the north African country, which is under interim rule, on Thursday announced that it had postponed the vote until October 16.

"The High Independent Panel charged with preparing elections has prepared a calendar that sets October 16 as the date of the election for the constituent assembly," said its chairman Kamel Jendoubi following a meeting with political parties.

"The date of July 24 is not on the calendar," he added.

The transitional government had previously announced that the poll would take place on July 24, stating that interim President Foued Mebazaa had signed a decree to this effect, but the vote panel insisted that the setting of the election date was its prerogative.

The High Independent Panel has argued that July 24 is too early to prepare properly for an election for the constituent assembly, which will draft a new constitution for Tunisia.

The country is in political flux after the ouster in January of president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled Tunisia for 23 years with an iron fist before a popular uprising.

"We are the guarantor of transparent, free and democratic elections that should take place for the first time in our country," panel member Arbi Chouikha told AFP on Thursday.

The political parties are divided on the postponement of the election, with most arguing that a delay could lead to instability and others saying that the postponement will provide time for a proper campaign.

When the president of the High Independent Panel announced the October 16 date, government spokesman Taieb Baccouche said the cabinet would discuss the decision and could be swayed by the commission.

© 2011 AFP

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