26 September 2011 -PRESIDENT KARL A LAMERS APPLAUDS TUNISIA’S PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY
At the conclusion of a two-day fact-finding mission in Tunisia, the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Dr Karl A Lamers (Germany), stressed the profound significance of Tunisia’s progress towards democracy.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly has paid close attention to developments in North Africa and the Middle East since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” and its members have expressed strong support for the movements towards democratic governance.
“The “Arab Spring” began inTunisia, and Tunisians are on the threshold of a key milestone in the path towards democratization as they prepare for elections on 23 October”, said Dr Lamers. “I wanted to learn at first-hand about the people’s hopes, expectations, and concerns as they prepare for their historic elections and a new future for their country. I also wanted to discover how the NATO Parliamentary Assembly might be able to assist withTunisia’s transition to democracy. We have a lot of experience as a result of our work with the parliaments of Central andEastern Europeas they made their own democratic transitions after the end of the Cold War.”
During the visit, Dr Lamers and NATO PA Secretary General, David Hobbs, met government ministers, representatives of political parties, NGOs, and international organizations which are providing various forms of support, including help with preparations for the forthcoming elections.
“The significance of a successful transition to democracy cannot be overstated”, said Dr Lamers. “Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was the first of the wave of uprisings which is still in progress, andTunisiais developing a ‘roadmap’ for transforming itself into a parliamentary democracy. Tunisia’s success will encourage all those seeking to follow a similar path”.
Tunisiais seen as being particularly well placed to achieve a successful transition. It has a well-educated, largely homogenous population, with a large middle-class, and functional administrative structures. It now stands on the threshold of a critical milestone as it prepares for the election of a Constituent Assembly on 23 October. Although mechanisms and details are still being worked out, this Constituent Assembly’s key task will be to draw up a new constitution. However, it will first elect an interim President, and an interim government leader so that a leadership which will have demonstrable democratic legitimacy will be put in place.
As soon as possible – and no more than one year after the election of the Constituent Assembly - parliamentary elections will be held and a democratically-elected leadership will be put in place.
Tunisians readily acknowledge the difficulties of conducting these first elections in such a short space of time, but the public is understandably impatient to see demonstrable results from the Jasmine Revolution. Tunisians are keen to become part of the “democratic arena” and to enhance cooperation with the international community, including in areas such as science, the environment, development, culture, education, and security.
The most fundamental factor behind the Jasmine Revolution - and those which followed elsewhere - was that the ruling regime deprived the people of their dignity. Ordinary people with a good education were unable to earn a decent living while the Ben Ali regime’s members amassed fortunes through corruption and privilege.
While the Jasmine Revolution removed the oppression and inequality of the Ben Ali regime, representatives of political parties and the interim leadership are well aware of the challenges faced in meeting the people’s expectations about the economy - in particular the high level of unemployment – and the establishment of fully democratic institutions.
“I saw the high level of commitment to assistingTunisiaof, for instance, the European Union, and bilaterally by many nations”, said Dr Lamers. “I know that the members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly will play their part in working with the Constituent Assembly and a democratically elected Tunisian Parliament.”