Monday, October 24, 2011

Tunisia Counts Votes From Historic Elections

Tunisia, the first of the Arab countries to overthrow longtime dictators, despots, and autocrats, carried off the first free election since they deposed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. They're counting the votes and it would appear that there was huge turnout for the elections. Observers think that there was 90% turnout, and that includes a large diaspora vote.
Most forecasts point to the Ennahda party emerging with the biggest share of the vote, an outcome that worries secularists and could be replicated in other Arab states when they hold their own post-Arab Spring elections.

Tunisian radio read out voting figures obtained from districts in the northern town of Beja and other areas that showed Ennahda in the lead, with the center-left Congress for the Republic Party (CRP) also doing well.

Ennahda said its own polling suggested the same. Parties are allowed to have representatives present during the counting process. Partial results are expected later Monday and final results Tuesday.

"The results are very good for Ennahda. We don't want to give details but it's clear that Ennahda has enjoyed a level of success that in some cases equals the results of the voting abroad," an Ennahda official said.

Ennahda, citing its own, unofficial tally from votes cast by the large Tunisian diaspora before Sunday's election, said there were indications it had won half the vote abroad.

"Ennahda was first in all the foreign polling stations," its campaign manager, Abdelhamid Jlazzi, told a gathering of party workers. "We got more than 50 percent."

The 217-seat assembly Tunisians are electing will sit for one year, re-write the constitution, choose a new interim government and set dates for parliamentary and presidential elections.
So who exactly is the Ennahda party or the CRP? Ennahda considers itself to be a moderate Islamist party and the CRP is a center-left party that has significant support.

Ennahda has attempted to show that it is a modern and moderate Islamic party.
n all three countries, Islamic groups have proven to be most organized, topping opinion polls and setting the political agenda, but have also taken pains to present themselves as progressive and democratic. Ennahda is running a female candidate who wears the head covering favored by Islamists as its candidate in the capital of Tunis and its leaders have repeated stressed its fealty to democracy.

“All the values of democracy and modernity are respected by Ennahda. We are a party that can find a balance between modernity and Islam,” its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, told Reuters in an interview on Monday, rejecting critics’ accusations that the party’s moderation is a cover for extremist views.
These elections are only the beginning of a political process to form a new constitution and political process. I would expect significant political maneuverings to put in religious protections for Muslims and non Muslims, and even some attempts to marry some Islamic law to democratic ideals, but the religious components will take a back seat to the real issue facing the Tunisian government - improving the economic situation for millions of Tunisians who overthrew Ben Ali because the government was unresponsive to the dire economic conditions. The government will have to focus on improving economic conditions and if it fails to put a political solution in place that generates economic growth and economic opportunities for advancement, this new government will find itself voted (or thrown) out of office.

It appears that Ennahda has won at least 30% of the votes and is going to be in a position to form the new government along with several liberal-leaning groups.
The party, Ennahda, won at least 30 percent of the votes cast on Sunday, and party officials told a news conference the party had come out ahead in nearly every voting district. Ali Laredi, a top official of the party, said it expected to receive possibly more than 50 percent when the final results are tallied.

Calling his party “the most modernist” Islamic political movement in the Arab world — meaning the most committed to principles of democracy and pluralism — Mr. Laredi predicted that it would now “lead the way” for others around the region.

Ennahda officials were already beginning discussions to form a unity government with the four or five other more liberal parties that were expected to get representation in the constituent assembly, which is to draft the constitution.

Millions of Tunisians cast votes on Sunday in the election, which was widely watched as the possible pioneer for votes in Egypt and Libya, where longtime autocrats were felled by uprisings energized by the Tunisia revolution.

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