Tunisia is set to make history on Sunday

October 31, 2011

Tunisia on Sunday will mark historic milestones for the Arab world when Tunisians elect an assembly that will write a new constitution for the country.

The elections will be the first genuine multiparty contests since Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956. They will also be the first to be organised and supervised by an independent commission, and not the interior ministry. Other milestones are the high number of women candidates and the presence of more than 5,000 independent local and international observers. No other Arab country has gone as far as Tunisia to ensure the success of multiparty elections.

The elections are being held slightly more than nine months after the nation toppled the regime of Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali who ruled with an iron fist between November 1987 and January 2011. His downfall launched a cascade of popular movements that have ended the rules of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

While in the past the number of the people who could run was strictly limited and the election process was carefully orchestrated by the authorities, the number of candidates in today’s elections, according to the commission, reached 11,686. Political parties are presenting 828 lists while the independents have 655 lists. Coalitions and independent parties have 34.

Political empowerment

All lists have an equal number of men and women candidates, a decision take by the commission to boost the political empowerment of women. Initial resistance by conservatives was eventually overcome.

However, while the number of women candidate equals that of men, only six per cent top electoral lists, a fact that could hurt their chances under a system that gives those at the top higher chances of winning.

Voters will cast ballots in 27 constituencies in Tunisia and in six constituencies abroad located in Paris and Marseilles in France, Italy, Germany, Canada and the UAE. Tunisian expatriates had cast their ballots on Thursday, Friday and yesterday. Officials said reports indicated a high voter turnout and added that two heads of polling stations were changed following complaints.

Winners in the elections will form the assembly that will write a new constitution and give much-needed legitimacy to the constitutional institutions.

An independent commission, chaired by Kemal Jendoubi, one of Tunisia’s best known activists, is overseeing all the stages of the electoral process and has trained around 50,000 people to help it with the mammoth task. The commission had been given 10 million Tunisian dinars (Dh25.7 million) to ensure the success of the elections in a first for Arab countries.

Weather forecast

Meteorological forecast that Tunisia’s historic elections on Sunday could be held on a cold and possibly rainy day have failed to dampen people’s excitement about a massive participation.

“Be it an earthquake, floods and even a tsunami, my friends and I will go to vote,” Anas wrote online. “It is the first time that I feel that my vote will count. This is a big party and a lovely celebration. Even my friends who had initial doubts about the merit of the elections will be there. Long live Tunisia,” he wrote on Saturday evening on the babnet website.

For Less Desperate, the sky may be heavy, but the heart will remain light.
“We will have a warm heart beating with joy, pride and emotions as we queue up with hundreds of fellow citizens so that we can live together this historic moment,” he wrote from France. “We do not care about the weather because the future of Tunisia is shining brightly in our hearts.”

Slightly less emotional, Mona wrote that she wanted to see some rain.
“Rain is a blessing from God and having the rain and the elections together is a double blessing for us,” she wrote.

Writing from Tunisia, Yusuf showed determination to cast his ballot “even if there is a tornado.”

“I will brave all the elements in order to vote and write my name in the history book of my country,” he wrote.

Sami Troudi said that the Mediterranean weather in Tunisia was generally clement and expected sunshine. “I am looking forward to the sun, especially that the last two days have been cloudy, but even if it rains heavily, I am planning to be part of the great party. No-one in his senses will miss such a fantastic appointment with History.”




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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