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The struggle for Tunisia’s future

By Cristina Casabón

Tunisians will head to the polls on October 26 to vote for their members of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP), and legislative elections will be followed followed by a presidential election in two rounds in November and December. Tunisia’s transition has been relatively better than other arab transitions in the arab world, and these elections will be closely watched, with important implications for democratic progress not only in the country but also in the region.

During an informal lunch with the the European Council on Foreign RelationsBaab Al Shams discussed the case of Tunisia with Anthony Dworkin. As the ECFR Senior Policy Fellow explained, “the prominent challenge after the elections will be that politics can work and can deal with the aspirations of people.”

Ridha Tlili is currently covering Tunisia elections for Baab Al Shams with AYANKEN FILMPRODUCTION, a Tunisian film production company located in Sidi Bouzid. Here you can see some of his pictures and his fist video for Baab Al Shams.

As Anthony Dworkin explained in the last ECFR’s publication, Tunisia’s elections and the consolidation of democracy, the parliamentary election is the key for Tunisia’s future direction: “The pressing question is whether the country will be able to find a distribution of political authority after the vote that is more stable and effective than last time. Tunisia’s new constitution establishes a hybrid system in which power is shared between the parliament and president. The parliamentary election is more important for Tunisia’s future direction, as the largest party in parliament is entitled to name the prime minister and try to form a government that can win majority support in the assembly.”

The ARP will replace the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which was elected on October 23, 2011 and has since acted as both a constitutional drafting body and a transitional legislative body. According to the new Constitution passed on January 26, 2014, members of the new parliament will hold office for five years.

Ennahda, the moderate Islamist political faction also known as Renaissance Party, remains the most disciplined and best organised political party across the country and has announced that if the party wins the most seats in the new parliament, it will seek to form a broad-based government supported by as much of the political spectrum as possible. If this party wins, it is possible that it may install another technocrat government in Tunisia.

The other party that is expected to emerge as a significant  force in the elections is Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia), the secular-nationalist party founded in 2012 by former interim prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi to balance against Ennahda’s dominance. Meanwhile, the Union for Tunisia front formed in February 2013 crumbled after Nidaa Tounes announced to present separate lists, in May 2014. Beyond these two dominant parties, other political groups are struggling to achieve any significant influence.

ECFR’s publication also explains that there’s a growing impatience with the quality of democracy and the results that democracy transition has achieved so far for the population. Dworkin concludes that “the country needs a broad-based support and legitimacy to tackle Tunisia’s economic and security needs. But in the longer term Tunisia also needs a government that is ambitious and flexible enough to take on the broader task of fundamentally reforming the state.”

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The Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) will announce the preliminary results on October 29. Detailed results per polling station will be published on its website: www.isie.tn and in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Tunisia. 

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