* Proposed date three months later than previously expected
* More time needed to ensure transparency, official says
* Main opposition fears move “political, not operational”
By Tarek Amara
TUNIS, May 22 (Reuters) - The president of Tunisia’s independent election committee on Sunday proposed postponing an election for a new assembly to Oct. 16 from July 24, citing operational reasons.
It would be impossible to have elections on the expected date in July, Kamel Jandoubi said.
“The time would not be enough to prepare all that is necessary for transparent elections,” he told a news conference. “Personally, I propose the date of October 16.”
The elections are for an assembly to draw up a new constitution following the overthrow of former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January.
Ali Larayad, a spokesman for Ennhada, the main opposition and Tunisia’s only Islamic party, told Reuters: “In my opinion, I am not convinced that an election day three months later than expected is in the interests of the country and its political stability or security.”
“I am afraid this decision is political, not operational.”
The timetable for the election, the first since Ben Ali was ousted, has been contentious, with smaller, less mobilised parties expressing misgivings over an early date.
But street protests in the Tunisian capital have put pressure on authorities to hold elections in two months’ time even if this could risk more instability in the long run.
Hamma Hammami, president of the Communist POCT party, told Reuters: “Since the beginning, we have been demanding an election date in October. Today we find the proposal of October 16 very logical.
“This date gives political parties the opportunity to present their programmes and gives the Tunisian people the opportunity to get to know the different opposition parties.”
The new election date recommendation would usually need the approval of the interim government to be formally adopted.
Police used teargas to break up demonstrations in the capital earlier this month, by protestors sceptical about the interim government’s promises to bring in democracy after the uprising taking to the streets.
Authorities arrested 1,400 people linked to recent anti-government protests. (Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Jan Harvey; Editing by Jon Hemming)