On December 16, 2011, the Tunisian Constituent Assembly passed the internal bylaws it was to operate under for the duration of its mandate. The bylaws cover everything from the procedural regulations that first established the assembly’s committees and subcommittees to the number of unexcused absences an assembly member is allowed to accrue (however, it surprisingly does not mention any form of sanction or punishment for cheating on official votes). It is the responsibility of each concerned citizen to take a look at the bylaws and try to link them with how the assembly is keeping up.

For now, let’s do a little exercise and go over very few of the specific clauses.

Chapter 3, Article 4, Section 3, Clause 54 (§3.4.1.3.54) states that:
Each committee must announce its meeting times and each meeting’s agenda on the Constituent Assembly’s website.

If we take a quick look at the Constituent Assembly’s website, we see that this is certainly not being followed.

Under the title, “Committees’ Activities,” we see: “There is no news in this section.” Again, I like going through the numbers at times so let’s see what this means. There are 17 total committees in the assembly today – 6 principal ones, 7 legislative ones, and 4 special ones. The 6 principal ones have been meeting 3 times a week for at least 4 months now. This means that 3 (days) x 4 (weeks) x 4 (months) = at least 48 agendas have been drafted per committee (unless they do not operate with an agenda – which is worse – but we’ll spare the assembly the organizational embarrassment).

48 agendas (per committee) x 6 = at least 288 agendas that have yet to be released. 288. Does this number seriously alarm anyone else but myself?

Moving on.

Chapter 3, Article 4, Section 3, Clause 62 (§3.4.1.3.62) states that:
The rapporteur or one of his aides is in charge of drafting a report of the committees activities. The report is signed by the person who drafted it and the committee’s president, who then passes it along to the assembly’s administration to include in the next plenary’s agenda. After the committee approves the report, it is posted to the Constituent Assembly’s website.

Great!” the Tunisian citizen might think. Information at the voter’s fingertips. So – how about we check out that oft referred to website and see what we have?

Only three committees have published reports. For the record, none of the three are principal committees. One of them is a legislative committee (Committee on Finances and Development) and two of them are special committees (Committee on Administrative Reform and the Committee on Martyrs and General Amnesty). According to the assembly’s website, the six committees in charge of drafting our country’s constitution have done absolutely nothing so far.

Another clause concerns who can enter the assembly.

Chapter 3, Article 5, Section 1, Clause 76 (§3.5.1.76) states that,
“Plenary meetings are public and they are to be announced through various ways, of them: 1. Announcing meeting times and agendas, 2. Accepting citizens and media in designated areas and according to administrative rules.”

The reality is that once you show up at the Palace of Bardo’s door, you are automatically asked by the doorman: “Are you press?” If you answer, “No,” you are typically not allowed to enter the green gates. However, over time it became clear that the only citizens that are allowed to enter are those who are used in games of political ping pong, or whatever group happens to be increasing the pressure and media spotlight on the assembly members at the time: ie. revolution’s wounded, etc.

One more clause for good measure, and to end the post with a chuckle or a laugh:

Chapter 7, Clause 127 (§7.127) states that,
Smoking is prohibited in all areas except specifically designated for doing so.

Upon reading this clause, personally, a loud “HA” escaped my lips. All it takes is a step past security to notice the clouds of smoke everywhere.

Although this post is a mere sampler, there are plenty more clauses to get busy with. Among the most important are those that regulate the number of allowed absences per assembly member (3), how to get an absence excused, and voting methodology. Take a look and pass it along. What’s most appalling is that the assembly itself voted on these internal bylaws. If the assembly members did not think it appropriate to ban smoking, why did they agree to do so in the internal bylaws? The question could be applied to nearly every clause in the document.

In the meantime, we can either hold our freely and fairly elected assembly members accountable or… We can just play pretend (and feign ignorance).

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