News / Africa

Tunisian Citizens Ready to Vote

A supporter of the Islamic Ennahda party displays her national flag during a rally in Ben Arous, south of Tunis, October 21, 2011.
A supporter of the Islamic Ennahda party displays her national flag during a rally in Ben Arous, south of Tunis, October 21, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Lisa Bryant

Ten months after ousting longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians vote Sunday in their first democratic elections since independence. Tunisia's January revolution sparked the revolts now spreading across the Arab world.  Much is at stake, and the elections are being closely watched, because they could emerge as possible model for the region.

After decades of one-party rule, Tunisians now have plenty of choice. Thousands of candidates are running in Sunday's elections to select a so-called Constituent Assembly. The assembly is tasked to draw up a new constitution and chart a political roadmap for this North African country.

Political science professor Steven Ekovich of the American University of Paris has followed Tunisian politics for years. He says the vote is being closely watched, especially in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.

"The Arab Spring started in Tunisia and if it's going to have any success, that success will also start in Tunisia," said Ekovich.  "We know that if any country can do it, if any country can make a successful transition to democracy it will be Tunisia. And that will have enormous impact if it's successful, for example on Egypt. And Egypt is really the keystone to the Arab world."

Many Tunisians, like Waisi Adili, 34, are casting their vote for the first time.  Adili, who is unemployed, hopes the elections will usher in a political system that will bring human dignity and work.

Polls put Ennahdha as the clear frontrunner. The party that was banned under former dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, is living up to its name, which means "Renaissance," in Arabic. Party spokeswoman Yusra Ghannouchi is the daughter of Ennahdha leader Rachid Ghannouchi. He returned to Tunisia in January, after more than two decades in exile in England. She says her father's party is about politics, not religion.

"We take inspiration from the ethical values of Islam which we believe are universal values - freedom, dignity, equality," said Ghannouchi.  "Just like other parties might take inspiration from various liberal or leftist backgrounds. So religion is not something we believe the state will interfere in or impose, it is a matter of personal choice."

A British-educated doctoral student, the younger Ghannouchi says Ennahdha wants to preserve and develop the considerable rights of Tunisian women, who are considered the most emancipated in the Arab world.

"We have detailed in our program many policies that would advance women's rights further while stressing their right to education, to employment, to full equality including equal pay including combating all forms of violence against women," added Ghannouchi.

Ennahdha draws widespread support. At its last pre-election rally in the Tunis suburb of Ben Arous, women in headscarves mingled with some who were bare headed and wearing jeans.

Tunisia's recent political history has been orientated to the West. And many voters are eying a myriad of more secular, leftist parties - like the Modern Democratic Pole (PDM coalition).

Handing out flyers on the main Habib Bourguiba Avenue during the last day of campaigning, PDM candidate, Samir Taieb warns against mixing religion and politics.

Taieb says Ennahdha represents a danger, not only because of its religious bent, but because it had a hidden agenda. He warns it will roll back women's rights.

Women like university student Beya Ben Assin are also worried.  Assin fears that if Ennahdha gains power, it may curtail her ability to speak, dress and work as she chooses.

There are 217 seats up for grabs and observers say that Ennahdha is unlikely to capture the majority.  It is already in talks to form coalitions. And what many Tunisians say is most important is that finally their vote will count.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid