Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tunisia: Exemplary Election Conduct

Tunisia's last month's parliamentary polls were proof of the country's determination to get out of instability.

Of the so-called 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in Africa - Egypt, Libya and Tunisia - the latter today stands out as a clear success story. First, the campaign to edge out long-standing leader, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, was not as bloody as in Egypt and Libya, which ended up becoming continuous killing fields, even until today.

Right Political Foundation:
Secondly, while the power tussle elsewhere took on very divisive trends, with factionalised sections of the society turning on each other in endless orgies of vendetta, Tunisia remained relatively peaceful, with a fairly well-managed transition process. The Islamist Ennahda party took on the running of the country after an initial victory for the transitional parliament. But following protests from other sections of the society and political class that they were monopolising power, Ennahda finally allowed a non-partisan, non-political leadership to conclude the transition.

Good Organisation:
Thus, the October 26, 2014, parliamentary elections were only the culmination of a long, well-thought-out process that was already on course. Organisation of the vote was so good that it passed off with little or no reported incidents of malpractices. This was attested to by representatives of the over 100 contesting political parties, the media and monitors. As a result, no party contested the final results. Even the losing Ennahda, which got only 65 of the 217 seats, felicitated its rival, Nida Tounes, which received 85 seats; though not enough to secure an outright majority.

Massive Participation:
Given the right foundation that was laid by Tunisia's political and electoral authorities, it was no surprise that voter turnout was high. Tunisians flocked to polling stations since the early hours of Election Day to choose a new parliament in elections seen as a test of democratic transition in the birthplace of the so-called Arab Spring. The general election was the first under the country's new constitution and the second since the 2011 uprising that overthrew the regime of Ben Ali. Turnout defied most opinion polls, which had projected a decline in popular participation in the election of the legislature for a five-year term.

Security Challenges Overcome:
In spite of earlier fears of disruptions to the polls, the vote passed off with no major security incident. More than 4,500 polling booths were set up to receive over 5.2 million eligible voters. At least 80,000 security personnel were deployed around the country and 22,000 observers; 600 of them foreigners, monitored the elections. The mood was so convivial that voters at some stations openly felicitated security men for ensuring a safe conduct of the election.

As the country looks forward to presidential polls on November 23, 2014, to conclude the three-year transition, it can only be hoped that the people will go the way of last month's exemplary elections. This will be a sure way of entrenching democracy for posterity.

Presidential Poll On Course:

After a successful parliamentary poll last month, Tunisians are set for presidential elections on Sunday, November 23, 2014. With 27 candidates in the race and with good prospects of another free and fair poll, Tunisia is truly set for a smooth transition to democratic rule after the 2011 Revolution.
By Kimeng Hilton Ndukong

Cameroon Tribune

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