Tunisia election delayed until October 23

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 08, 2011 6:34 AM
Tunisia election delayed until October 23

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's election will be held on October 23, a delay of a further week to ensure it can be "free and transparent," Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi said on Wednesday.

The timing of the vote for an assembly to rewrite the country's constitution has been highly sensitive.

Large opposition parties have demanded an early poll, saying they fear the government may renege on its promise to lead Tunisia toward democracy after the overthrow of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali this year.

"All things considered, we decided to hold the elections on October 23," Sebsi told reporters after meeting government officials in Tunis.

"The most important thing is the transparency of the elections. There are parties who disagreed with this ... but our mission is to hold elections that are free and transparent. We must protect the good name of the revolution."

A date was originally set for July 24, but electoral officials said that was impractical because of technical hitches such as nearly 400,000 Tunisians still lacking voter cards, and had suggested October 16 as a new date.

Campaigners took to the streets earlier this year to protest against the last suggestion of a delay to the vote.

Tunisia has been struggling to restore stability and rebuild its economy since Ben Ali's ouster, with tourist numbers sharply down and the World Bank forecasting just 1.5 percent economic growth this year.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Tim Cocks; Edited by Richard Meares)