Tunisian lawmakers voted on Friday to establish a deadline for elections and an initial draft constitution. The draft constitution must be completed by the end of April and elections must be held by December. A spokesman for Mustafa Ben Jaafar, speaker of the constituent assembly, stated [Reuters report] that the establishment of dates for the constitution and election "is an important message to both inside and outside the country ... that we are on the verge of completing the last stages of the democratic transitions and going on to the stage of democratic stability." Lawmakers hope that establishing the deadlines will help ease the tense situation resulting from the assassination [NYT report] of Tunisian human rights activist Chokei Belaid, which has sparked mass protests [BBC report].
Tunisia has faced political turmoil since former President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] left office amid nationwide protests in 2011. In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on Tunisian authorities to investigate a series of attacks [JURIST report] by religious extremists, and to bring those responsible to justice. In August, the UN Working Group on the discrimination against women in law and in practice [official website] urged the Tunisian government to ensure that women's rights are protected [JURIST report] in line with the nation's international human rights obligations. In October 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] emphasized the importance of adherence to the rule of law [JURIST report] as Tunisia moves forward with its new government.