News / Africa

Huge Turnout in Tunisia's First Democratic Polls

A Tunisian woman holds a national flag with her ink-stained finger after casting her ballot at a voting station in Tunis October 23, 2011.
A Tunisian woman holds a national flag with her ink-stained finger after casting her ballot at a voting station in Tunis October 23, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Lisa Bryant

Ten months after its revolution triggered a wider popular revolt, Tunisia is the first so-called "Arab Spring" country to hold democratic elections.  Tunisia's 4.4-million registered voters are choosing 217 members of the new Constituent Assembly to craft a new Constitution and political system for the North African country emerging from decades of dictatorship.

Tunisians are turning out in huge numbers Sunday for the chance to choose among multiple political parties for the first time since independence in 1956.

The electoral commission said nearly 70 percent of Tunisia's 4.4-million voters had already cast their ballots several hours before the polls closed.

More than 100 parties are fielding candidates in the election. In previous votes, only ruling party candidates were allowed to run.

Hundreds of people lined up at an elementary school in Bir el Bay, waiting under a hot sun for their chance to vote.  Like many here, 45-year old Chadia Hermi is voting for the first time.  She has chosen the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party.  Hermi said she likes the party and its program.  Because it supports Islam and respects religious women like her.

Ennahdha is considered the front-runner in these elections for Tunisia's new Constituent Assembly.  But its unclear what percentage of the vote it will get.  Especially since more than 100 parties are running.

School teacher Yosra Daggou cast her ballot for the small, centrist Al Majd Party, one of dozens created since Tunisia's January revolution.  She said she never bothered to vote under former dictator, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. "You can see that a lot of people are here today.  And they are happy.  Because they really, for the first time, they are sure that they will decide and nobody else will decide for them," she said.

Observers are checking polling centers around the country.  Election observer Phil Howard is with the U.S. National Democratic Institute, and says he has seen no irregularities. "I think Tunisians know that they they inspired the Arab spring and that in some ways if they pull off the election they well may inspire other countries to run good elections," he said.

76-year-old Salah Garbou says he's voted only three times in his life, once under Ben Ali, once under Tunisia's post-independence President Habib Bourguiba.  And now.  

Garbou said he hopes Tunisia's next government will work for its people.  Many here are hopeful about the country's future.  But they are also waiting for the outcome of Sunday's vote.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid