Tunisia MPs approve Article 1 of new constitution

AFP , Saturday 4 Jan 2014

Tunisia's assembly adopted Article 1 of the new constitution Saturday, establishing the republic and Islam as its religion but rejecting amendments that the Koran be the "main" source of law.

"Tunisia is a free, independent and sovereign state. Islam is its religion, Arabic is its language, and it is a republic. It is not possible to amend this article," the article reads.

The approved article, a compromise between the Islamist Ennahda party and the secular opposition, was adopted by 146 votes out of the 149 ballots cast in the National Constituent Assembly.

Lawmakers rejected two amendments, one proposing Islam and the second proposing the Koran as "the principal source of legislation."

Mohamed Hamdi of the small "Current of Love" party defended Islamic law, saying it would give "spiritual backing to all rights and liberties."

But a secular assembly member, Mahmoud Baroudi of the Democratic Alliance, said the proposed amendments were "against modernity."

Assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar then adjourned the session after leftist Popular Front coalition member Mongi Rahoui started shouting, demanding that he be allowed to speak.

Three years after the uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, parliament began voting Friday on the long-delayed new constitution.

Its adoption would mark a crucial democratic milestone in the birthplace of the Arab Spring after months of political crisis.

However, media reports Saturday noted that the January 14 deadline for the constitution's adoption seemed unlikely to be met.

It was on that day in 2011 that Ben Ali and his family left for Saudi Arabia.

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