In this city where the Arab Spring was born, an undercurrent of anxiety accompanied the country’s first democratic presidential election on Sunday. Outside the cosmopolitan coastal capital of Tunis, front-runner Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old politician who served under two autocratic regimes, is viewed with suspicion. He is seen as an unsettling relic of the autocratic regimes that ruled Tunisia from its independence from France in 1956 until the 2010 uprising. “You can’t be stung by the same scorpion twice,” said Najib Issaoui, a 27-year-old fruit vendor in a small market in the center of Sidi Bouzid. “The revolution is in progress. But it isn’t finished.”
Mr. Issaoui occupies a stall near the one that once belonged to another fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi. In December 2010, Mr. Bouazizi set himself on fire after local police confiscated his wares because his scales weren’t properly certified.
His self-immolation in front of the city’s municipal headquarters rocked the nation and rippled across the region. Soon came local labor strikes and protests that spread to the capital Tunis. The uprising sent longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia, where he remains.
In short order, Tunisians’ cries of “The people demand the fall of the regime” spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.