Tunisia Welcomes New Constitution

Tunisia’s parliament has adopted a new constitution – the first since the ousting of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali three years ago.

The National Constituent Assembly passed the text by 200 votes from 216.

Analysts say politicians hope it will send out a message of stability after months of deadlock between Islamist and secular forces.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Mehdi Jomaa says he has formed a new caretaker government.

The cabinet consists mainly of independents and technocrats, and is expected to run the country until new elections. No date has been set for the polls.

‘Historic milestone’

After the vote on Sunday, the Tunisian flag was unfurled and parliamentarians embraced each other inside the chamber.

“This constitution, without being perfect, is one of consensus,” AP quoted assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar as saying.

Parliament agreed the text on Friday after the governing Ennahda party granted a number of concessions, including dropping references to Islamic law.

It guarantees freedom of worship but says Islam is the state religion. It also forbids “attacks on the sacred”, which analysts say is open to interpretation.

The text also recognises equality between men and women for the first time.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon hailed the agreement as a “historic milestone”.

“Tunisia’s example can be a model to other peoples seeking reforms,” his spokesman said, reports the AFP news agency.

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