Tunisia approves new constitution

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Tunisia’s national assembly approved the country’s landmark new constitution — its first since the ouster of longtime president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali three years ago.

The text was passed with 200 votes, the state news agency TAP reported. Twelve members voted against the measure, and four abstained.

Alongside the vote, Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa appointed a caretaker Cabinet as part of a deal to end a crisis between Tunisia’s Islamist party and its secular opposition until new elections.

The approval of the new constitution is one of the last steps to establishing full democracy in the North African country, the cradle of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that toppled autocratic leaders in one of the most conservative corners of the world.

Its drafting lasted two years and exposed a deep rift between the Islamist Ennahda party and the secular opposition.

But after months of political crisis and sporadic violence, Sunday’s milestones contrast sharply with messy transitions in regional neighbors Libya and Egypt — still caught up in turmoil after ousting their own longtime leaders in 2011 revolts.

Celebrating the vote, assembly members made victory signs and sang the national anthem, TAP reported.

“All eyes around the world are fixed on Tunisia’s democratic experience,” assembly chief Mustafa Ben Jaafar was quoted as saying by TAP.

Political turmoil

The once-banned moderate Islamist Ennahda party won elections in October 2012 — the first after Ben Ali’s ouster in January 2011 — and formed an Islamist-led government

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