Landmark Tunisian election campaign kicks off

2011-10-01 20:30

Tunis - The campaign for Tunisia's landmark elections for a constitutional assembly began on Saturday, featuring 81 political parties competing in this former dictatorship.

Tunisia overthrew its long ruling leader president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January after a month-long popular uprising that inspired similar movements across the region and has remade the face of the Arab world.

The past nine months have seen further demonstrations, local unrest and rise in crime across this North African nation of 10 million, but many hope the elections will bring stability.

Tunisia's experiment with democracy after a half century of an autocratic state is being closely watched around the world for its impact on the rest of the region.

"The elections should take place under favourable conditions, but we are ready for any eventuality," said Kamel Jendoubi, the head of the commission overseeing elections.

Security officials say that all forces will be mobilised to ensure stability during the elections.

There are 60 000 members of security forces, including 10 000 new recruits, and 45 000 soldiers in the army.

Since El Abidine's fall, what was once one of the most repressive countries in the Arab world has seen an explosion of political activity, with the formation of 111 political parties.

Of them, 81 will be competing in the election in 785 lists together with another 676 lists of independent candidates across 33 constituencies for 217 seats.

Those elected will then have a year to write a constitution to dictate how Tunisians will govern themselves before elections for a parliament will be held.

Three weeks before the elections, polls have shown that at least half of the country's seven million voters remain undecided, something candidates will be looking to address with hundreds of meetings around the country to present their programme.