Campaigning Under Way for Tunisian Elections

Campaigning officially under way for the October 26 parliamentary polls which Tunisians hope will bring stability.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Tunisian leaders (file)
Tunisian leaders (file)

Campaigning officially got under way on Saturday for Tunisian parliamentary elections seen as a milestone in efforts to establish a democratic foothold in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, AFP reports.

Tunisia has grappled with social unrest over the feeble economy, violence blamed on Islamists, and attacks by terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda loyalists.

The Octember 26 parliamentary polls will be the second since the revolution four years ago that swept away longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Stalwarts of the deposed regime as well as members of the once-outlawed Ennahda moderate Islamist party are among those standing for office.

Ennahda won the first free election after the overthrow of autocratic president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, but was accused by the opposition of seeking to entrench itself in power, disregarding the interests of a large secular urban population and being lenient toward radical Islamists.

Tunisia was roiled by social unrest and political crises ever since the election, but things really got out of hand last summer after two secular opposition leaders were assassinated by Islamists.

Under an agreement finally reached to break the deadlock, parliament ratified a new constitution in January and Ennahda handed power to an interim government of independents.

About 5.2 million people are eligible to vote with 13,000 candidates vying for a seat in the 217-strong National Assembly.

These polls will be followed by an election in November giving Tunisians the opportunity to directly elect their president for the first time in the post-Ben Ali era.

Ennahda, which clinched 37 per cent of the vote three years ago, is aiming to do even better this time.

“We have confidence in our people, who gave us a high percentage last time,” its leader Rached Ghannouchi said last month, according to AFP.

The party will not field a presidential candidate, as it recently declared, but will back a “consensus” hopeful in the November 23 polls to help “pull Tunisia out of catastrophe and impasse,” Ghannouchi said.