A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tunisia Votes for Parliament Sunday

On Sunday, Tunisia will go to the polls to elect its second legislative body since the Revolution and its first under the new constitution.That alone deserves attention. Though technically, Libya has already held two Parliamentary elections since Arab Spring, the second resulted in two governments,  one of which is on a ship in Tobruk. This election may be imperfect, but it offers hope,

The Al-Nahda (Ennahda) Islamist party held a plurality in the previous government but yielded power for new elections. As was not the case in 2011, the secularist sides that have dominated much of Tunisia's post-independence history are better organized to compete with Ennahda, which has lost some support to more radical groups (and Tunisia is reportedly the largest source of foreign fighters to ISIS). But the country is not as polarized as Egypt.

The downside (or perhaps hidden strength) for the secularists re the growing perception that many of the candidates are retreads from the ancien regime, survivors of the dominant RCD Party of the Ben Ali era and other establishment elements.

Another issue widely noted is that although the new constitution sharply curtailed the powers of the president and strengthened those of the parliament and Prime Minister, many Tunisians, long acquainted with an all-powerful Presidency, are paying more attention to the November vote for President than for this month's Parliamentary vote.

A few readings may help follow the results:
  • The International Republican Institute's Democracy Speaks blog has also run an extensive series of posts on the Tunisian vote, including profiles of the major parties. (Use the search function on the site to find them all.) (The rival National Democratic Institute doesn't seem to be as current.)
  • Finally here's a public service announcement against vote buying. The video called "Tunisian's can't be bought" is in Tunisian colloquial and says, as translated by Tunis Live (my Tunsi dialect is rusty but the translation sounds on target): “Who buys your vote and pays you a dinar, tomorrow will take your livelihood with two million dinars. Who buys your vote is a thief, a cheater, a traitor. He doesn’t care about you, about Tunisia, about the children’s dreams. He doesn’t care about the blood of martyrs. He will take your vote and leave you behind,”

No comments: