The Tunisian Democratic Modernist Pole Promises to Outlaw the Death Penalty and Instate ‘Perfect Equality’ in Inheritance

The Tunisian Democratic Modernist Pole Promises to Outlaw the Death Penalty and Instate ‘Perfect Equality’ in Inheritance

Summary: The Centrist Tunisian political party the ‘Democratic Modernist Pole’ (PDM) officially released its campaign platform on September 24th, in which it proposes the separation of religion and politics and underlines key issues.  The PDM was formed in May 2011 by the fusion of four political parties: Ettajdid, The Leftist Socialist Party (le Parti Socialiste de Gauche), The Republican Party (le Parti Républicain), and The Centrist Way (la Voie du Centre).

As the only prominent party to present election lists of which half are headed by female candidates, the PDM has received attention recently for its commitment to its vision of male-female equality.  This commitment continues in the PDM’s promotion of ‘perfect equality’ (as the Business News article puts it) in inheritance law. The party also supports the abolition of the death penalty, though, as the article’s author, Raouf Ben Hédi, notes, such an abolition would be “an officialization of what is already in practice in Tunisia, as the last execution goes back to 1993.” 

A Tunisian reader would understand both the abolition of the death penalty and the transformation of inheritance law to ensure this particular vision of gender equality as a rejection of a government based on Islamic law; widespread interpretations of Islamic law across Sunni and Shi’a schools allow the death penalty and allow women in general to inherit half of what men inherit.

Regarding such a separation of politics and religion, the PDM has proposed the following as a modification to the first article of the Tunisian constitution: "Tunisia is a democratic, free, independent, and sovereign State: its religion is Islam, its language Arabic, and its regime republican.” [“La Tunisie est un État démocratique, libre, indépendant et souverain: sa religion est l'Islam, sa langue l'arabe et son régime la république.”]  Business News’s Ben Hédi calls this amendment “light” and editorializes, “They thus did not ‘dare’ to go all the way and call things by their names by instituting, clearly and without ambiguity, the term ‘secularism.’” [“On n’a donc pas « osé » aller jusqu’au bout et appeler les choses par leur nom en instaurant clairement et sans ambiguïté le terme laïcité.”] The PDM specifies that this article, which declares Islam as the religion of the State, should not be used by the Constitutional Tribunal to validate or invalidate laws based on readings of Islamic law.

The PDM also proposes that religious institutions be financed solely by the State, with no foreign or private funds allowed.

As for political system, the PDM proposes a mixed regime with a president elected every five years to serve a maximum of two terms. As for the Constituent Assembly, the PDM proposes that laws and decisions be based on majority vote, except for those decisions regarding the constitution, for which they propose a required 2/3 majority vote.

Business News published another article following the official release of the PDM’s platform on Saturday, September 24th. It adds little in terms of platform content but does feature pictures of the ceremony and names of attendees.

Original Language Text: 

Le programme du Pôle Démocratique Moderniste (PDM) promet d’abolir la peine de mort et instituer une égalité parfaite de l’héritage.

Business news a, en effet, pu accéder au programme Constitutionnel du PDM qui sera officiellement dévoilé demain samedi 24 Septembre à 10 heures au Palais du Congrès avec la présentation des Candidats du Pôle.

Notre première impression c'est que le Pôle est fidèle à son engagement pour l'égalité homme femme (déjà matérialisé par la présentation de 50% de femmes candidates en tête de liste).

On y apprend que les listes de l'étoile sont pour la levée des réserves sur la signature de la convention sur l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l’égard des femmes (CEDAW), ce qui impliquerait, selon notre lecture et à moins d’être démentis par le PDM, un engagement fort pour l'égalité homme femme dans la loi et de par la loi y compris dans l'héritage.

On y lit également un recours à la discrimination positive pour promouvoir la participation des femmes et de jeunes dans la vie publique où pour la promotion de l'intégration des handicapés.

Une autre originalité dévoilée par le PDM est son engagement pour l'abolition de la peine de mort.

Une officialisation de ce qui est déjà en pratique en Tunisie puisque la dernière exécution rmonte à 1993.

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[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]