About Assembly of the People’s Representatives of Tunisia
Written on September, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic transformed the way governments and institutions conducted their operations. Tunisia, like many countries, had to adapt and implement new methods to ensure the continuity of its parliamentary activities. This essay explores the Tunisian Parliament’s adaptation to remote working, focusing on the legislative changes and technical aspects that enabled successful remote deliberations during the pandemic.
The Transition to Remote Work
The Tunisian government declared a lockdown on March 20th, 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread. In response, the Tunisian Parliament held a plenary session on March 26th, 2020, approving a series of decisions that allowed for the continuation of parliamentary activities through videoconferencing tools. These decisions included conducting all official meetings, plenary sessions, chairman meetings, and committee meetings remotely. Furthermore, the Parliament established more flexible procedures for the lawmaking process, allowing proposals related to Covid-19 to bypass ordinary procedures and deadlines.
The Legal Framework and Technical Aspects
To facilitate remote work, the Tunisian Parliament had to establish a legal framework for remote deliberations. A consensus was reached by interpreting Article 127 of the bylaws, which allows for electronic voting, thus permitting votes from a distance.
In terms of technology, the Parliament initially attempted to use the Zoom platform for remote meetings but faced difficulties. As a result, they switched to using Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Forms for conducting meetings and voting, respectively. Deputies received tablets and training to ensure they were proficient in using the technology, while technicians provided the necessary equipment and support to enable smooth remote operations.
Remote Meetings and Evaluation
The first online meeting of the Tunisian Parliament took place on March 25th, 2020, with 12 deputies attending. The first remote plenary session occurred on April 3rd, 2020, with 104 out of 240 deputies participating, 54 of whom attended remotely. The draft law was adopted by 83 votes. The Parliament desk evaluated the experience and considered it satisfactory despite some technical difficulties, which were deemed normal for a first-time experience.
Deputies criticized certain aspects of the remote meetings, such as delays, unstable connections, and low-quality images. In response, the technical team made improvements by adding Microsoft Forms to the system. Plenary sessions were broadcast on TV, allowing citizens and stakeholders to witness the historic shift to remote meetings.
The End of Remote Meetings and Evaluation of Performance
On July 4th, 2020, the Tunisian Parliament voted to end remote meetings as the Covid-19 pandemic began to slow down. Between March 26th and July 4th, 2020, the Parliament organized 12 remote plenary sessions, 17 remote meetings for the Parliament desk, and 64 remote meetings for parliamentary committees. During this period, 19 law drafts were examined, with 11 approved, and the head of the government issued 29 decrees.
The Tunisian Parliament’s experience with remote meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the adaptability and resilience of governmental institutions in times of crisis. The digitalization of the Parliament allowed for close to normal work, with a higher rate of presence due to the remote nature of the meetings. Although the period of remote work has come to an end, the experience has shown that remote meetings are possible and that the Parliament may return to this method of organizing work in the future. The Tunisian Parliament’s remote deliberations are an example of how institutions can adapt and continue to function effectively even in challenging circumstances.
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