The Middle East Channel

Tunisians have high hopes with first free election

Sunday, Tunisians voted in their first free election since the former French colony achieved independence in 1956. The country has been under virtual one party rule vilified by corruption, violence, and intimidation, until predominantly peaceful protests enabled the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14. The election will determine a temporary president ...

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
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Sunday, Tunisians voted in their first free election since the former French colony achieved independence in 1956. The country has been under virtual one party rule vilified by corruption, violence, and intimidation, until predominantly peaceful protests enabled the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14. The election will determine a temporary president as well as a 217-member constituent assembly that will serve as the interim governing body tasked with drafting a new constitution. Male and female voters took to the polls in droves, with turnouts estimated at up to 90 percent of registered voters. People began lining up in orderly queues in the early hours of the morning eager to cast their votes. The day proceeded with little protest or violence, and voters gave statements of exuberance and confidence. Marcel Mazouki, founder of a liberal political party said, "Tunisians showed the world how to make a peaceful revolution without icons, without ideology, and now we are going to show the world how we can build a real democracy." However the country remains divided, apparent in the participation of over 11,000 candidates and 110 political parties. Ennahda, Tunisia’s moderate Islamic party, is projected to receive the most support with up to 40 percent of the vote however should not gain a majority forcing participation in a coalition government. There is genuine concern that Ennahda will cause a shift in Tunisia, currently one of the most progressive and educated countries in the Middle East particularly concerning women’s rights, toward a conservative Muslim environment, despite the insistence of party leaders that it is pro-democracy and will respect diversity. Election observers began counting votes after polls closed at 7:00 pm, however results aren’t expected until Monday or Tuesday. Regardless of the outcome, Tunisians have high expectations that the interim government will spark economic development, and improve social and political conditions.  

 

Related Articles:

 

Upcoming Event:

"After Tunisia’s Election" John P. Entelis of Fordham University, Chris Alexander of Davidson College, and Melani Cammett of Brown University will join a panel moderated by Marc Lynch of George Washington University to discuss outcomes of the Tunisian election. 

Sunday, Tunisians voted in their first free election since the former French colony achieved independence in 1956. The country has been under virtual one party rule vilified by corruption, violence, and intimidation, until predominantly peaceful protests enabled the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14. The election will determine a temporary president as well as a 217-member constituent assembly that will serve as the interim governing body tasked with drafting a new constitution. Male and female voters took to the polls in droves, with turnouts estimated at up to 90 percent of registered voters. People began lining up in orderly queues in the early hours of the morning eager to cast their votes. The day proceeded with little protest or violence, and voters gave statements of exuberance and confidence. Marcel Mazouki, founder of a liberal political party said, "Tunisians showed the world how to make a peaceful revolution without icons, without ideology, and now we are going to show the world how we can build a real democracy." However the country remains divided, apparent in the participation of over 11,000 candidates and 110 political parties. Ennahda, Tunisia’s moderate Islamic party, is projected to receive the most support with up to 40 percent of the vote however should not gain a majority forcing participation in a coalition government. There is genuine concern that Ennahda will cause a shift in Tunisia, currently one of the most progressive and educated countries in the Middle East particularly concerning women’s rights, toward a conservative Muslim environment, despite the insistence of party leaders that it is pro-democracy and will respect diversity. Election observers began counting votes after polls closed at 7:00 pm, however results aren’t expected until Monday or Tuesday. Regardless of the outcome, Tunisians have high expectations that the interim government will spark economic development, and improve social and political conditions.  

 

Related Articles:

 

Upcoming Event:

"After Tunisia’s Election" John P. Entelis of Fordham University, Chris Alexander of Davidson College, and Melani Cammett of Brown University will join a panel moderated by Marc Lynch of George Washington University to discuss outcomes of the Tunisian election. 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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