Campaigning closes in Tunisia Friday, two days before its first democratic elections, with a formerly banned Islamist party poised to dominate an assembly that will pave the way for a new government.
Nine months after the ouster of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt that sparked region-wide pro-democracy uprisings, more than seven million potential voters will have a final chance to hear the main parties’ election promises at closing rallies planned countrywide. Campaigning closes at midnight.
On Sunday, three days after the Arab Spring claimed its latest victim with the killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, Tunisians will seek to turn the page on decades of post-colonial autocratic rule by electing 217 members of a constituent assembly from more than 10,000 candidates.
Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi urged Tunisians on Thursday to go vote “without fear”, and sought to give assurances that the poll will be fair.
The Islamist Ennahda, predicted by pollsters to win up to 30 percent of the votes, had warned Wednesday of a risk of voter fraud and vowed new uprisings if this was the case.
The election system has been designed to include as many parties as possible in the assembly that will re-write the constitution.
The body will have to address such crucial issues as the form of the new government and the guaranteeing of basic rights, including gender equality many fear Ennahda would seek to diminish.
It will also have the loaded task of appointing a president who will assign a caretaker government to run the country for the duration of the drafting process, expected to take a year.
The stakes are high. The success or failure of the election will send a strong signal to the people of the Arab world who drew courage from Tunisia’s ouster of a dictator to launch their own revolutions which have since toppled the rulers of Egypt and Libya and still threaten others.
Full Article: Tunisians prepare to head to the polls.