Tunis - The Tunisian press strongly criticised the National
Assembly on Tuesday after a debate on the new constitution degenerated into
chaos, with some saying it had missed the chance to make history.
After more than 18 months of work on drafting a new
post-Arab Spring charter, the assembly "missed a rendez-vous with
history", the main French-language daily La Presse announced on its front
With the finalisation of the draft text being endlessly
pushed back in the quest for a compromise, beyond the initial deadline of
October 2012, the "consensus has hit a dead end", it said.
"We have ended up at loggerheads, instead of with a
constitution agreed by consensus," the paper thundered, adding that during
Monday's session it saw only "egos and horse-trading".
Le Temps, another Tunisian daily, said that during the
long-awaited debate "all hell broke loose" between members of the
secular opposition, who by their heckling drowned out the head of the drafting
committee, Habib Kheder, and some within the ruling Islamist party Ennahda who
insulted their critics.
"This first day of discussions was lead by a dialogue
of the deaf," said the paper, seeing in it "a difficult prelude for
the [adoption of] the constitution".
The first parliamentary debate on the draft constitution was
disrupted by opposition MPs who accuse Kheder of introducing controversial
articles into the text in a discretionary manner.
Sections of civil society and the opposition have raised
concerns that the text does not sufficiently guarantee basic liberties and the
independence of the judiciary, and that it is not clear enough on gender
But a relatively wide consensus appears to have been forged
among key figures within the ruling coalition, including the president and
The debate resumed on Tuesday morning and could last several
days, with 170 MPs having asked to speak.
The new constitution requires approval by a two-thirds
majority in the 217 seat assembly and must be adopted before a timetable can be
drawn up for fresh elections, which Prime Minister Ali Larayedh has promised to
hold before the end of 2013.
Adopting the charter is seen as key to restoring stability
in Tunisia and helping overcome the political crises, social unrest and violent
attacks by radical Islamist groups that have rocked the country since the
revolution that overthrew former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January