Tunisia Holds 'Historic' Elections 9 Months after Igniting Arab Spring
Tunisia, the "birthplace" of the "Arab Spring", is holding Sunday free parliamentary elections described by commentators as "historic."
The elections come nine months after in January 2011 a popular uprising that ended decades of authoritarian rule by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and served to inspire similar developments in other Arab countries that led to the ousting from power of long-serving dictators – Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
The protests also spread to countries in the Middle East such as Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.
4.4 million registered voters in Tunisia are set to pick a 217-member constituent assembly. That multi-party body will, in addition to drafting a new constitution, also be charged with appointing an interim president and a caretaker government for the duration of the drafting process, Al Jazeera reports.
More than 11,000 candidates are running in the election, representing 80 political parties. Several thousand candidates are running as independents.
The government says that 40,000 police and soldiers have been deployed to prevent any possible protests escalating into violence.
Kamel Jendoubi, the country's election chief, declared his independent ISIE polling commission "ready and confident" ahead of voting, while the European Union's observer mission said there was "almost no chance of cheating or falsifying results".
The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young vegetable seller whose self-immolation last December set of the Tunisian revolt, said that the elections were a victory for dignity and freedom.
"Now I am happy that my son's death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice," Manoubia Bouazizi said, as cited by Al Jazeera. "I'm an optimist, I wish success for my country."
Tunisia country has been relatively calm in the weeks leading up to the election, with the exception of isolated protests against Nessma TV. With no other genuine democracies in the Arab world, many across the region are paying close attention to Tunisia's democratic transition, Al Jazeera points out.
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