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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid