Tunisians vote Sunday to elect their first parliament since the country’s 2011 revolution, in a rare glimmer of hope for a region torn apart by post-Arab Spring violence and repression. After three weeks of largely low-key campaigning, more than five million voters are to elect 217 deputies in a ballot pitting the Islamist Ennahda movement — the country’s largest party — against a host of secular groups. Tunisia has enjoyed relative stability since the region’s 2011 uprisings in contrast to the lawlessness of Libya and Yemen, the military takeover in Egypt and Syria’s bloody civil war. But the country has flirted with disaster, particularly last year when a rise in militant activity, the assassination of two opposition lawmakers and an economy in the doldrums threatened to drag Tunisia down the same path.
Its political class, although often at loggerheads, caved in to pressure from civil society groups in January to schedule Sunday’s vote and set presidential elections for November 23. Tunisia’s model of coalition government — in which Ennahda shares power with two secular parties — was praised by the international community.
That arrangement collapsed and was replaced in January by a government of independents tasked with holding fresh elections. “You just need to compare (Tunisia) with other Arab Spring countries… from the point of view of the protection of freedom and democracy, we are considered a successful model,” said Ennahda’s former prime minister, Ali Larayedh.