Tunisians await election results

2011-10-24 08:08
Tunis - Tunisians and the world eagerly awaited the results on Monday of the country's first-ever democratic elections held nine months after the ouster of a dictator that gave birth to the Arab spring.

As ballots were counted overnight, the Islamist Ennahda party was predicted to win the most votes but fall short of a majority in a new 217-member assembly that will rewrite the constitution and appoint a president to form a caretaker government.

The first polling stations closed at 19:00, 12 hours after they opened, with no serious incidents reported and elections chief Kamel Jendoubi saying voter turnout had "exceeded all expectations".

ISIE electoral commission secretary-general Boubaker Bethabet said more than 90% of some 4.1 million citizens who registered ahead of the poll cast their votes on Sunday - at least half of all eligible voters.

No figures were available for the other 3.1 million voters who did not register but also had the right to vote.

US President Barack Obama congratulated Tunisians on the vote, which he described as "an important step forward".

"The United States reaffirms its commitment to the Tunisian people as they move toward a democratic future that offers dignity, justice, freedom of expression, and greater economic opportunity for all," he said in a statement.

Peruvian ex-president Alejandro Toledo, an election observer, said in Tunis: "For my point of view there is already a winner, and the winner is democracy."

Liberty and dignity

Voter Houcine Khlifi, 62, had tears in his eyes as he spoke of finally casting his ballot after spending a sleepless night in anticipation of the country's first-ever electoral contest without a pre-determined result.

"Tunisia today offers the world a bouquet of flowers of liberty and dignity," he told AFP in central Tunis.

"On this day, I vote in memory of my husband who gave his life for our dear country, our liberty," 63-year-old Rbiaa Dalhoumi said through her tears after voting in Kasserine. The western town bore the brunt of the government's brutal crackdown on the revolution that ousted dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Salem Bouazizi, brother of fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi whose self-immolation sparked the revolution, cast his first democratic vote in the southern town of Sfax at the age of 31.

"His sacrifice was not in vain. We have continued his work and I am proud to be Tunisian today," the carpenter told AFP.

Initial results may be released on Monday, with the official count only due out Tuesday.

The assembly elected on Sunday will decide on the country's system of government and how to guarantee basic liberties, including women's rights, which many people fear Ennahda would seek to diminish despite its assurances to the contrary.

It will also have the authority to write laws and pass budgets.

Ennahda says it models itself on the ruling AKP party in Turkey, another Muslim-majority country, which like Tunisia to date has a secular state. But its critics have accused it of preaching modernism in public and radicalism in the mosques.

Tunisia's progressive left remains divided before Ennahda, with party leaders having failed to form a pre-vote alliance.

Irregularities and difficulties

In a sign of the tension between the Islamists and secularists, Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi was heckled after voting in a Tunis suburb.

But Ghannouchi, who until recently was in exile, said with a smile: "This turnout demonstrates the people's thirst for democracy."

The electoral system was designed to include as many parties as possible in drafting the new constitution, which is expected to take a year, ahead of fresh national elections.

Ennahda is likely to seek a post-poll coalition with smaller parties to give it a bigger say on the body.

Sunday's vote is the first run by an independent electoral body after decades of ballot-stuffing by the interior ministry.

The European Union hailed Tunisia's elections and vowed support for the new authorities.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "As the first country in the region to put democracy to the test at the polling booth, Tunisia is once again leading the way."

Ben Ali was ousted in January after 23 years of iron-fisted rule, in a popular uprising that sparked region-wide uprisings which claimed their latest Arab strongman Thursday with the killing of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.

In polls witnessed by some 40 000 security force members and 13 000 observers, Tunisians could choose from more than 11 000 candidates - half of them women by law - representing 80 parties and thousands of independents.

Jendoubi said there had been "some irregularities and some difficulties" that would not affect the outcome.

The current, interim government will remain in power until the assembly appoints a new president, which is not expected before November 09.

Read more on:    zine el abidine ben ali  |  tunisia  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  tunisia elections  |  tunisia protests

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

5 crucial questions to ask before you take that job 2014-10-30 08:00

You choose your employer just as much as they choose you. Here are 5 of the most important things you should find out about a company before you sign up.


10 facts about swimming you didn't know

This will make you want to jump right into the pool.


Where were you when you last felt alive?

Snors with a cause - creating awareness of male health
Inspiring: Rock climbing with just one leg
Watch! Skateboarders racing cyclists
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

TV Series – 2 for R299

Loads of hot titles to choose from. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


You may be doing the work and playing the game, but your innovative mind is on a far away planet planning the next big thing....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.