Egypt Independent

Tunisia ruling coalition agrees to hold elections next June

Tunisia's ruling coalition, led by the Islamic Ennahda Movement, said early Sunday it had agreed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 23 June, with the president being chosen directly by voters.

The coalition's agreement on a date for elections and the establishment of an amended parliamentary system come after widespread criticism from the opposition that Ennahda wants to control the government and avoid elections.

The Islamic Ennahda Movement won the country's first free elections last October following Tunisia's revolution, which set off last year's "Arab Spring" revolutions. The movement heads a government that also includes two secular parties, the Congress for the Republic and the Ettakatol.

The ruling coalition said in a statement sent to Reuters that an agreement had been reached setting "23 June 2013, as the date for legislative and presidential elections," with a presidential runoff scheduled for 7 July.

"We agreed on the choice of a mixed political system where the election of the president of the republic will be directly by the people … The political system will ensure a balance between authorities and in the executive authorities," the statement said.

The agreement must be approved by the constituent assembly, where the ruling coalition has a majority of the 217 seats.

The agreement will help speed the drafting of a constitution. The form of political system was a big contrast between Ennahda, which called for the parliamentary system, and the rest of the parties, which called for a dual political system.

The amended parliamentary system will have powers balanced by between the parliament and the president.

The announcement of a date for elections could potentially dispel the doubts of Tunisia's partners in the West and foreign investors who wish to enter the Tunisian market.

The constituent assembly elected Moncef Marzouki president in December 2011 to follow Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted as president in January 2011 after weeks of protests seen by many as the catalyst for similar protests across the Middle East and North Africa.