TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia’s first vote since the country’s revolution will take place on October 16, election officials said on Thursday, contradicting a government announcement of a July 24 poll and sparking opposition protests.
The timing of the vote for an assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution has been highly sensitive.
Larger opposition parties are demanding an early poll, saying they fear the interim government may renege on its promise to lead Tunisia toward democracy after the overthrow of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali this year.
Campaigners took to the streets earlier this year to protest against the committee’s last suggestion of a delay to the vote.
Thursday’s announcement came just a day after Tunisia’s interim government announced the vote would take place in July.
The head of the independent committee organizing the vote said officials needed more time to prepare.
“We don’t have enough days left to have the election on July 24. Therefore, the elections will take place on October 16,” committee president Kamel Jandoubi told a meeting of political parties.
“There are many problems, such as the fact that nearly 400,000 Tunisians in the country do not have voting cards ... We have to recruit nearly 24,000 employees to organize the elections ... They have to be trained... All that takes a lot of time,” he added.
Officials from three large opposition parties — Ennahda, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress for the Republic — told Reuters they were unhappy about the delay.
“It is not reasonable to say there is not enough time,” said Abdel Raouf Al-Ayadi, vice president of the Congress for the Republic. “I want to know on what basis this decision was made.”
Some parties have supported a delay, saying they also needed time to prepare their campaigns and candidates.
“The arguments presented by the committee are very convincing,” said Khalil Zaouia of the Democratic Forum for Freedom and Labour (FDTL). “We need a lot of time to succeed in having elections that are free and transparent... We must not fail... The eyes of the world are on Tunisia.”
Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Jan Harvey; Editing by Andrew Heavens