* Election council key for Tunisia democratic transition
* Nine-member council will oversee elections this year
(Adds comments from assembly, background)
TUNIS Jan 8 Tunisia's national assembly
appointed an electoral council on Wednesday to oversee elections
this year, a key step in the country's transition to democracy
three years after its "Arab Spring" uprising.
Selecting the nine-member electoral council was a key part
of an agreement to overcome months of political crisis between
the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, and its secular opposition
over how to shape the country's young democracy.
"Congratulations to the Tunisian people for the election of
these nine members. It was a tough task, but we have overcome
differences," Meherzia Laabidi, deputy president of the
assembly, said at the end of voting.
Under the deal brokered late last year to end deadlock,
Tunisia's government plans to resign shortly and hand over power
to a non-political caretaker cabinet that will govern until new
elections later this year.
Three years after its popular uprising ousted autocratic
leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the North African country is in
the final stages of establishing a full democracy that is seen
as a model for the region.
National assembly members are also voting on the last
clauses of a new constitution, and the government and opposition
have already agreed on a caretaker prime minister, Mehdi Jomaa,
an engineer and former minister.
Tunisia's young democracy was threatened after the
assassination of two secular opposition leaders last year by
militant Islamist gunmen, forcing the country into a deadlock
between Ennahda and opposition parties.
After months of protests, though, Ennahda agreed to step
down, but only once the government and mostly secular opposition
finished the constitution, set a date for elections and named an
Despite its tensions, Tunisia has fared better than Egypt,
Yemen and Libya, who have struggled more with violence and
instability since their revolts against their own long-standing
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi. Writing by Patrick Markey;
Editing by G Crosse and Andre Grenon)