Tunisians gear up for historic vote

2011-10-22 17:00


Tunis - Tunisian voters on Saturday weighed their choices on the eve of the Arab Spring's historic first elections nine months after the surprise toppling of strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali that started it all.

Campaigning ended at midnight for the vote the previously banned Islamist Ennahda party is tipped to win, with the ISIE independent polling commission reminding candidates and journalists that Saturday would be an "election silence day".

Any breach was punishable by law, it warned in a statement.

"I am so happy to be voting tomorrow, to be able for the first time to exercise my choice. I get goose bumps just thinking about it," 37-year-old Neda Kouki, an aesthetician, told AFP on the streets of Tunis.

Mohamed Ben Salah, 30, said voting was a privilege, months after he joined other Tunisians in protests over corruption, poverty and unemployment that forced Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia.

"I am 30 years old, but I have no work, no wife, no car, no house. I will be voting for freedom and for jobs," he said.

Tunisia's 7.2 million eligible voters have been called to elect a 217-member assembly on Sunday that will rewrite the constitution after two decades under Ben Ali.

The assembly will also have the loaded task of appointing an interim president and a caretaker government that will remain in place for the duration of the drafting process, expected to take a year.

The ISIE electoral commission said Saturday that everything was in place for the poll.

No excessive emotion

"By the end of today, all polling stations will have these ballots," commission member Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh told journalists in Tunis.

Commission president Kamel Jendoubi added: "As far as security is concerned I think things are going the right way. There is a lot of vigilence."

Voters will choose from 11 686 candidates on 1 517 lists - 828 for political parties, 655 for independents and 34 for party coalitions.

"The electoral campaign has been calm, even timid at the start," Michael Gahler, the head of the European Union observer mission, told AFP.

"There has not been excessive emotion, as is normal in countries in transition," he said.

Political party volunteers swarmed the streets of Tunis on the last day of campaigning Friday, handing out flyers in a festive atmosphere as thousands flocked to an Ennahda rally in a poorer suburb.

"We will recognise the results of the elections, we will congratulate the winners, no matter Ennahda's score," party leader Rached Ghannouchi told supporters, adding: "To date, the campaign has been acceptable."

The party, expected to win up to 30% of the vote, had warned Wednesday of vote-rigging and vowed new uprisings if it detects electoral fraud.


The constituent assembly will have to address such crucial issues as the form of the new government and guarantees of basic rights, including gender equality, which many fear Ennahda would seek to diminish.

The stakes are high. The success or failure of the election will send a strong signal to the people of the Arab world who drew courage from Tunisia's revolutionary example to start their own uprisings, scoring its latest triumph with the killing on Thursday of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

Claiming to model itself on Muslim Turkey's secular state, Ennahda has sought to reassure a divided electorate by promising not to curb women's rights, widely considered the most liberal in the Arab world.

But secularists have denounced what they call the party's double-speak, accusing it of being modernist in public but radical in the mosques.

More than 100 political parties in all will contest Sunday's polls, but the progressive left remains divided with party leaders having ruled out a pre-vote alliance.

Elections will be secured by more than 40 000 police and soldiers and witnessed by some 13 000 local and more than 600 international observers, as well as about 1 000 journalists and bloggers.

"Tunisia's example has inspired the region and the world, and these elections are of great importance in the country's democratic transition," United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon said through his spokesman late Friday.

Results are expected on Monday.

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

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


An uncomfortable election

The latter few weeks of election 2014, have seen South Africans reeling from an assault on their comfort zone when it comes to voting, writes Daniel Silke


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! 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

Samsung Galaxy Y

The Samsung Y (Young) is tiny but powerful with Android...

From R1499.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow things...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.