Tunisia Signs New Constitution

Charter signed three years after revolution overthrew dictator

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Zoubeir Souissi / Reuters

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki arrives to attend the sixth political- and economic-cooperation summit between the Arab League and China in Hammamet, Tunisia, on May 31, 2012.

Lawmakers in Tunisia signed a new, progressive constitution Monday that enshrines sexual equality and divides executive power but also designates Islam as the state religion.

Parliament cheered in celebration on Sunday night after the charter, which took more than two years to draft, was signed by outgoing Islamist prime minister Ali Larayedh, Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar and President Moncef Marzouki. “This is an exceptional day for Tunisia, where we celebrate the victory over dictatorship,” Marzouki said. “The government and the opposition have won.”

Tunisia erupted more than three years ago against the autocratic rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, ousting him and sparking similar events in Egypt and Libya. Yet the tiny North African nation stands apart from the turmoil that has wracked Libya and Egypt since their leaders were removed by popular demand in 2011.

The new constitution, seen as a major step of getting Tunisia’s democratic transition back on track, was adopted by an overwhelming majority. It had been marred by months of deadlock last year between Ennahda, the ruling Islamist party, and other secular parties.

Ennahda agreed in late 2013 to hand over power to a caretaker government that would be formed by Mehdi Jomaa, the technocrat prime minister designated to steer the transition ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections later this year.

[Reuters, Al Jazeera]