Tunisia local polls will not be held on time - commission

2016-08-09 20:09
A Tunisian woman waves her national flag during a rally to mark the fifth anniversary of the uprising that inspired the Arab Spring. (AFP)

A Tunisian woman waves her national flag during a rally to mark the fifth anniversary of the uprising that inspired the Arab Spring. (AFP)

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Tunis - Tunisia will not be able to hold local elections in March 2017, electoral commission chief Chafik Sarsar said on Monday.

"Let's forget [that date], we aren't talking about it anymore," Sarsar told private radio station Express FM.

No official date had yet been set, but officials had said they were likely to be held either on March 12, 19 or 26.

Sarsar explained that in order for a new date to be agreed, a new electoral law must be passed.

"When will [the law] be passed? We don't know," said the official, adding that the path towards local elections was "blocked" - particularly now that parliament is in summer recess.

"A great majority of politicians don't think the local elections are important, they don't consider them to be a priority, and they would like them to be postponed," Sarsar said.

"Some parties would like them to be held as late as possible because they aren't ready for them."

Despite a popular revolt that removed longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, Tunisians have not yet had a chance to vote for local representatives.

After the revolt, local governments were disbanded and replaced with special delegations that were meant to be temporary.

"It is necessary" to hold local elections, Sarsar said, "because Tunisian citizens need to have efficient, legitimate local governments."

The revolution that began in Tunisia spread to many parts of the Arab world, with mass protests in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

In every country except Tunisia the revolution was followed by violent turmoil or, as in Syria's case, a devastating civil war.

While Tunisia is regarded as a beacon of the Arab Spring, it still faces many challenges, with the transition to democracy struggling at times through chaotic moments.

The economy is at pains to recover and there are fears that widespread joblessness will cause social unrest.

A jihadist threat has also emerged, with militant groups carrying out several attacks.

Prime Minister-designate Youssef Chahed began talks last week aimed at creating a unity government to tackle the challenges.

If his cabinet wins the backing of parliament, the 40-year-old Chahed will become the North African country's youngest premier since it won independence from France in 1956.

He will also be Tunisia's seventh prime minister in less than six years.

Read more on:    tunisia

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