World Bulletin/News Desk
Tunisia's new constitution will be ready by October 23, Parliament Speaker Mustafa Ben Jaafar said on Friday, paving the way for elections next year in the birthplace of the Arab Spring and easing concerns about the pace of democratic transition.
Tunisians ousted veteran dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in popular protests over a year ago, sparking the Arab Spring uprisings, and elections in October ushered in a constituent assembly assigned the task of drafting a new constitution.
Once that constitution is complete, Tunisians will go to the polls again to elect a full-year parliament, completing the first phase of the transition.
Tunisian officials have promised the parliamentary election will take place between March and June 2013.
But some Tunisian opposition and civil society groups had raised concerns that the constitution would not be ready in time and have complained about delays in judicial reforms and the slow pace of justice against Ben Ali's former associates.
Ben Jaafar, head of the Ettakatol party and speaker of the constituent assembly, said on Friday that the constitution would be complete within a year as promised before the last elections.
"The constituent assembly is continuing to look into the articles of the new constitution and the constituent committees have so far held 193 sessions," Ben Jaafar said, adding that this responded to accusations that parliamentarians were not carrying out the duties for which they were elected.
Speaking after the assembly passed an amended 2012 budget, Ben Jaafar also said the assembly by June should receive for approval a new parties law and laws establishing an independent election commission, an interim authority to oversee the judiciary and an independent commission to oversee the media.
Media and human rights groups had complained in recent months that the pace of reforms was too slow.