Tunisia began voter registration on Monday for heavily-delayed legislative and presidential elections due to take place later this year.The elections would consolidate the gains of an accord in January to end months of political crisis, which had blocked the democratic transition in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa and Chafik Sarsar, who heads the electoral organising commission, gave the order to begin the registration process at Tunis city hall, the government said.
After months of negotiations, the electoral commission this month proposed that legislative polls take place on 26 October and the first round of the presidential poll on 23 November, with the run-off on 28 December.The provisional election dates are to be submitted to parliament on Wednesday for approval."That should give time for deputies to make amendments," said National Assembly spokesperson Karima Souid. Some political parties have said the timetable is too tight to guarantee transparent elections, but ISIE has stressed that under the country's new constitution, both votes must take place in 2014.
Tunisians can register on the Internet, by SMS or by going to the relevant offices before 22 July, when registration closes. To facilitate the process, which is only required of those who were not registered for the October 2011 elections to the National Assembly, the electoral body has set up a call centre to field questions about how to register. An estimated seven million people are eligible to vote, but only 4.1 million Tunisians registered in 2011, for the first poll after the revolution that toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and touched off the Arab Spring.
In those elections, the Islamist party Ennahda won the largest share of seats in the assembly, which was due to be replaced by a permanent parliament in October 2012. But the process was heavily delayed by political crises, which culminated with the assassination last year of two opposition MPs by suspected Islamist militants and finally forced Ennahda to hand power to a technocrat administration headed by Jomaa.