Tunisian lawmaker talks of turbulent year

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Tunisian lawmaker talks of turbulent year

Tunisian lawmaker talks of turbulent year
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One year after Tunisia’s revolution, what has changed there? How is the work of the Constituent Assembly going? What future can be expected by the men, women and young people who believed in the revolution? euronews spoke to Karima Souid, an MP with the centre left Ettakatol party about these questions.

The French-Tunisian politician’s first electoral campaign with Ettakatol was in February 2011. The Arab Spring was just gathering force. The progressive party was founded in 1994.

Tunisians living abroad were the first to vote in the election for the Constituent Assembly. The ballot in Tunisia would be 23 October. Some 300,000 Tunisians were registered to vote in France.

One voter said: “I’m proud to be Tunisian. I’m proud to be here voting for the first time in my life. I hope our country will move towards democracy.”

The result of the vote for Ettakatol was disappointing, ranking third in Tunisia and in southern France coming fourth.

The big winner of the first free Tunisian election was Rached Gannouchi, leader of the Islamist party Ennahda, which had been banned before the Arab Spring ousted President Ben Ali. Ennahda won more than 41 percent of the votes in Tunisia, and just over 30 percent in southern France.

It is therefore an Islamist-dominated assembly that will produce the new constitution for Tunisia, even though the members choose secularist former dissident Moncef Marzouki to preside. His election comes out of a pact reached between Ennahda, Marzouki’s Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.

Born and brought up in the Minguettes district of suburban Lyon, Karima Souid is one of the 10 elected members of Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly representing Tunisians in France.

euronews asked: What has changed in Tunisia since the revolution?

Souid replied: In Tunisia today we can walk with our heads held high.

We have had free elections, the first in Tunisia’s history, democratic elections that have put a National Constituent Assembly into place. We have drawn up a future constitution and we are working to set up a republican system that will not be an Islamic republic.

It’s true that today there is a lot of debate in several commissions; for example in the Ennahda party there is an extremist faction, radicals who want Sharia law written into the fundamental constitutional text. In my Ettakatol party we do not want this constitution to be anti-republican. I would say the Tunisian people have deep Arab and Islamic roots , but it is out of the question that we put Sharia law into the constitution, at least for Ettakatol.”

euronews: Everyone involved in the election campaign promises to defend democratic and women’s rights. Do you think those promises are being kept?

Souid: There are some worries. We can’t hide from the fact that we must be vigilant. In Ettakatol we promise to do everything in our power to defend these rights as they are a part of what we are. We will not touch women’s rights, of course. We are a Social-Democrat party.

Citizens need to be involved, implicated in what happens in their country. Transparency is important, too, and I’d like to come back to a concept I find very important, what we call ‘open’ government. The citizen must be informed about all the actions undertaken in their name, and be placed at the heart of society,” says Souid.

euronews: Europe seems to have been by your side during the Arab Spring. Are you counting on European support today?”

Souid: By our side? I hadn’t noticed. We felt pretty alone. I understood we had to diversify our partnerships and look to play the multilateral card, looking to the world and not just Europe. But that’s not the case in Tunisia right now.

For years Karima worked as a project director for a holiday company. Yet she did not hesitate before setting out on a political path.

For me it was important because Tunisia is also my country, it’s the country of my parents, but it’s also mine, just as France is, of course. In Tunisia everything needs to be built; some questions just don’t need to be asked, you have to get on and do things, and I won’t flinch, not for an instant. There are times when you have to meet history head on, so however small my contribution, for me it’s a sort of rebirth.