So much violence and disorder elsewhere has tended to distract attention from one of the Arab Spring's few success stories, but Tunisia has now begun campaigning for its Parliamentary elections on October 26, which will be followed by the Presidential election November 23.
These are the second elections since the Jasmine Revolution and the first under the new constitution.
Over five million Tunisians have registered so far, but there are reports that the proliferation of parties is causing confusion among voters. The Presidential vote will be more personality-oriented, though the number of potential candidates is large: out of 70 who applied, the electoral authorities approved 27 Presidential candidates, including incumbent Moncef Marzouki and many prominent figures.
While the vote will likely be interpreted as a contest between the Islamist al-Nahda (Ennahda) and the secularist blocs, the shifting alliances among the secular parties may affect their success. One controversial factor is the re-emergence, in some of the secular lists, of familiar faces from the Old Guard of the Ben Ali era's ruling RCD Party, now affiliated with various parties but likely to draw support from conservatives, the business establishment, and other sectors. Of the 27 Presidential candidates, five held Cabinet positions in the Ben Ali era. If voter confusion is widespread, the presence of Old Guard familiar names and faces may strengthen the chances of the veterans re-emerging.
Despite all that is happening elsewhere, I hope to offer more coverage and commentary on Tunisia's campaigns unfold.