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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora