On May 2, 2012, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) hosted a roundtable with four members of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly (NCA): Meherzia Laabidi of the Al-Nahda party and the NCA’s Vice-President; Zied Daoulatli, also of Al-Nahda, who is part of the NCA’s Executive Committee; Mouldi Riahi, a member of the Attakattol party who serves on the NCA’s constitutional review committee; and, Badereddine Abdelkafi, NCA Deputy President who is also in charge of civil society organizations.
Speaking to an audience of embassy representatives and experts from thinktanks and democracy and governance organizations, the Tunisian visitors highlighted the progress of the constitution-building process, described what they saw as their successes in democratic reform thus far, and outlined the challenges facing the government and the country as a whole. They pointed out that while the consensus reached by political parties has set the country on the right path politically, the biggest challenges are now to stabilize a struggling economy and address social discontent stemming from pervasive unemployment.
Laabidi indicated that the majority of political forces in the NCA had agreed from the beginning on the importance of building a broad coalition, reaching far beyond a simple majority to build broad consensus on issues such as drafting the constitution and appointing a unity government. Zied Daoulatli stated that building a consensus was made easier by a previous agreement reached by political forces in 2005 on a democratic roadmap for a post-Ben Ali Tunisia; after Tunisia’s Revolution, this roadmap helped bring together the majority of political forces to work together and focus on the most pressing issues, rather than becoming entangled in narrow-minded political differences.
Daoulatli also added that everyone in the NCA and current government agrees that boosting the economy and addressing people’s demands for jobs and social services are priority concerns, since failure to do so could create further mistrust between the people and the representatives they recently elected. For this reason, almost 80% of the budget currently under debate in Assembly seeks to address basic needs and poverty, particularly in Tunisia’s interior regions.
Mouldi Riahi of Attakattol agreed with the Al-Nahda members and emphasized the importance of easing the country’s bid to join the democratic, free world by getting help from Tunisia’s friends, especially the US, in the form of expertise and know-how.