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Tunisia: Democratic Test for Tunisians on October 23 Election Day

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

It is a matter of only few days before the so-called Arab Spring which led to the fall of three autocratic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, faces its first democratic test.

Next Sunday (October 23, 2011), Tunisians will head to polls to elect a national constituent assembly which will be responsible for the writing of a new constitution, and forming a new interim government.

The elections are much anticipated by Tunisia, as they were delayed by three months, for logistic reasons. As the North-African country is now technically ready for what everyone hopes to be free and fair elections, there are fears that the number of voters to show up on election day might be disappointing.

Passerby glances at election posters in central Tunis, Tunisia. Image by Jonathan Mitchell, copyright Demotix (12/10/11).

Passerby glances at election posters in central Tunis, Tunisia. Image by Jonathan Mitchell, copyright Demotix (12/10/11).

@Arabasta1 tweets [fr]:

Mon cauchemar pour le 23/10 : un faible taux de participation, ce jour là ça sera pas les partis qui perdront mais la Tunisie, ALLEZ VOTER!

My nightmare for the 23/10: a weak participation rate on that day. Tunisia will be the one to lose and not the political parties, GO VOTE

Nadia published a post on her blog called ”Votez” (Vote) [fr], to encourage her fellow citizens to cast their votes.

She says:

Quelques jours seulement nous séparent d'une date historique. Rien n'est garanti quant aux résultats de cet évènement, attendu par certains depuis des décennies. Personne ne peut décemment prétendre savoir à coup sur combien de tunisiens iront voter, dans quelles conditions le vote se déroulera, quels partis et quelles personnalités indépendantes réussiront à convaincre et quel aspect aurait l'assemblée constituante suite au vote.

Tout ce que je peux dire aujourd'hui est que ceci est un rendez-vous que nous ne devons pas rater

Only a few days separate us from a historic day. Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the results of this event, anticipated by many for decades. No one can pretend to know how many Tunisians will go vote, in which conditions will the election take place, and which parties and independent figures will succeed to convince, and which look will the constituent assembly have after the vote.

The only thing that I can say today is that this is a date that we should not miss

On October 17, Bassem Bouguerra published the following post on his blog:

“I am a revolutionary and I will vote”
Tell it to the young, tell it to the old
Tell it to the rich, tell it to the broke
“I am a revolutionary and I will vote”
You touched our hearts and fueled our souls
You freed our nation and made us proud
You are Tunisian and you will vote.

Non-governmental organisations also joined the voices calling for Tunisians to cast their votes.

The following YouTube video, shared by the association Engagement Citoyen features the residents of La Goulette (a city in Tunis), waking up in the morning of October 18 to find out that their city was decorated by a gigantic portrait of former Tunisian President Zeine El Abeidine Ben Ali.

Overcome by anger, the residents and passers by took down the portrait and a message saying ”Beware Dictatorship Can Return. On October, 23 Vote” appeared.

American blogger, living in the capital Tunis, Erik Churchill gives his own point of view about the turnout:

In my estimate, a turnout of less than 60 percent would be a big disappointment for the country. Less than 50 percent could lead to some major problems concerning the legitimacy of the elections. On the other hand, a turnout of over 70 percent, with wide age, gender and geographical distribution would send the strongest symbol yet that Tunisians will stand for their rights and hold their government to account.

Meanwhile the clock is ticking, for the 50 percent or so of eligible Tunisian voters who have not yet made up their mind about who to vote for. Emna El Hammi writes [fr]:

Un sondage d’opinion réalisé en septembre par l’Institut de Sondage et de Traitement de l’Information Statistique (ISTIS) révélait que 72 % des Tunisiens avaient l’intention d’aller voter le 23 octobre mais que, parmi eux, seuls 34 % savaient pour qui ils voteraient et pour 47 % d’entre eux ce choix n’était pas définitif.

An opinion poll published in September by the l’Institut de Sondage et de Traitement de l’Information Statistique (ISTIS) suggests that 72% of Tunisians intend to head to polls on October 23, but among them only 34% know for whom they will vote, and for 47% of those decided voters, their choice is not definitive

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

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