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TUNIS, Tunisia – Tunisia's Constitutional Assembly on Monday prepared to select a new commission to oversee upcoming elections after its work was delayed over the weekend due to death threats.
The assembly is voting on Tunisia's post revolutionary constitution that is meant to install a democracy after a popular revolt overthrew the dictator in 2011.
During the debate over the weekend, Habib Ellouze, a hardline lawmaker from the Islamist Ennahda party called left-wing deputy Mongi Rahoui an "enemy of Islam."
The Interior Ministry reported there had been death threats against Rahoui through the social networking site Facebook and said the "necessary precations had been taken to protect those targeted."
Two left-wing members of the assembly, both from the same Popular Front coalition as Rahoui, were assassinated in 2013, nearly derailing the country's political transition.
Deputies from the assembly, including those from Ennahda, were united in condemnation of Ellouze's comments, which could be interpreted as an invitation for assassination.
The assembly on Sunday night then passed a new article criminalizing accusations of apostasy.
"God protect our colleague, his wife and children. If one hair on Mongui Rahoui's head is touched, we will all bear responsibility," Yamina Zoghlami, a member of Ennahda, told the chamber, calling her colleague's comments "catastrophic."
For his part, Ellouze said his remarks, which were in a debate over whether Islam would be described as the "religion of the people" or the "religion of the state" in the constitution, were taken out of context.
Tunisia's political transition has been fraught with debate over the future role of religion in this North African nation known for its secular outlook under a brutal dictatorship.
An Islamist party dominated elections, but in drawn out discussions with other parties, the civil and democratic character of the country has been preserved in the new constitution.
The Islamist prime minister Ali Larayedh is expected to step down in coming days to make way for a new caretaker government of technocrats to oversee coming elections.