Decades of despotism and two years of argument come to a close as leaders of the North African country sign off on a new constitution.

The Guardian reports:

In a statement, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said: “Tunisia can be a model to other peoples who are seeking reforms.”

The new constitution is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world, and was passed late on Sunday by 200 votes in the 216-seat assembly in Tunis.

“This constitution, without being perfect, is one of consensus,” the assembly speaker Ben Jaafar said after the vote. “We had today a new rendezvous with history to build a democracy founded on rights and equality.”

The constitution, which enshrines freedom of religion and women’s rights, took two years to finish. During that period, Tunisia has been hit by high unemployment, protests, terrorist attacks and political assassinations. At times politicians seemed more interested in posturing than finishing the charter.

But unlike in Egypt, where in the past two years two constitutions have been quickly drafted by appointed committees with little public debate or input, in Tunisia the elected assembly of Islamists, leftists and liberals worked on a detailed roadmap for their political future.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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