Friday, October 28, 2011

Clashes Erupt in Tunisia Following Election Disqualifications

Clashes flared anew after the independent elections commission disqualified candidates that had been declared winners. That's a black mark on what had been largely peaceful and successful elections.
Violence broke out Thursday night in the city and province of Sidi Bouzid over election disqualifications. On Friday, protesters again clashed with security forces, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd, according to the state news agency Tunisie Afrique Presse.

Authorities imposed a curfew in Sidi Bouzid between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. following the clashes, state media said.

The clashes erupted after independent commission disqualified some candidates for seats that had been won by the People's Petition, which is led by Hachemi Hamdi.

Hamdi owns a satellite television station based in London.

Tunisia's election commission Thursday had declared the moderate Islamist Ennahda party the winner of the weekend poll, taking 90 of 217 seats in an assembly that will write a new constitution, state media reported.

The party won 41.5% of the vote while its nearest rival, the secularist Congress for the Republic, won 30 seats, according to the Tunis-Afrique Presse.
The People's Petition party won 19 seats despite the invalidation based on financial irregularities. Note too that the People's Petition is closely aligned with the ousted regime of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The violence is being carried out by those who supported the ousted regime and whose votes are being disqualified by the independent commission setting up a new government.

Separating itself from other Islamist parties in the Middle East, Ennahda claims that it would protect womens' rights.
Since its victory in Sunday's vote, Ennahda has sought to reassure secularists and investors, nervous about the prospect of Islamists holding power in one of the Arab world's most liberal countries, by saying it would not ban alcohol, stop tourists wearing bikinis on the beaches or impose Islamic banking.

But despite the reassurances, Ennahda's victory is causing concern in some parts of Tunisia, who fear the party could later change its policies, our correspondent says.
Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi has previously compared his party's views to Turkey's government, but that's a worrisome situation given that the Turkish government under Erdogan has been backsliding on human rights and freedoms while Islamist positions are increasingly being adopted.

However, the most pressing issue for Tunisians is the awful economic conditions which precipitated the ousting of Ben Ali. There, Ennahda is calling for tax reform and stock sales to spur the economy.

The election results break down as follows for the 217 seat Parliament:
Ennahda won 90 seats.
Two left-leaning parties won second and third place: the Congress for the Republic (CPR) obtaining 30 seats, and al-Takatol 21 seats.
In fourth place was the People's Petition, with 19 seats.

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