Tunisia Islamists say fear election delay planned

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 27, 2011 11:34 AM
Tunisia Islamists say fear election delay planned

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's main Islamist party said on Monday it had withdrawn from a body charged with preparing for elections after this year's uprising, saying it feared further plans on the part of the interim authorities to delay the vote.

A committee of electoral monitors -- which includes the main political parties -- this month postponed to October 23 from July a vote for a special assembly that will write a new constitution.

"The committee is trying to take over the role of an elected parliamentary body and there is an attempt to take over the authority of the constituent assembly," Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi told a news conference.

"We have withdrawn completely since there is a minority that wants to impose its authority on the rest and we want to send a message to the people that the aims of the revolution are not being realized... We have serious doubts that the election will be held on October 23."

Tunisia has been in limbo since ruler of 23 years Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled the North African country on January 14 in the face of a popular revolt, unleashing a wave of protest movements across the Arab world.

The road map to a new democratic Tunisia involves the constituent assembly election in October, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections sometime next year.

Ennahda says the committee charged with preparing for the October vote is dominated by secular parties taking decisions without putting them to a vote.

Analysts say the Ennahda party has an advantage over other parties because of its organizational structure, honed in London and other capitals while in exile during Ben Ali's time. Secular parties would have more time to organize if elections were delayed.

The committee has prepared a law on financing political parties. But Ennahda says it has dragged its feet on producing a list of names of Ben Ali loyalists who cannot run for election.

Ennahda says it fears a maneuver to delay the vote and sideline the party, whose Islamist rhetoric has frightened many in Tunisia's traditionally secular political establishment.

The United States and European powers, erstwhile allies of Ben Ali, are keen for Tunisia to maintain its pro-Western orientation.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)