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  • Tunisian Elections Dominated by the Islamist Al-Nahda Party

    Tunis, Tunisia - Announcement of results of elections for the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia to the seat of the winner, the Islamist party Ennhadha. Photo Credit: Corentin Fohlen/Sipa

    The Al-Nahda (“Renaissance”) Party, a long-banned Islamist movement that was legalized after the ouster of Tunisia’s autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January, is emerging as the big winner in Sunday’s elections. Although the final results have not yet been announced, Al-Nahda has reportedly won 27 out of the 62 seats, over 40 percent of the seats filled so far, in the 217-member constituent assembly.

    The landmark election—the first genuinely free election to be held in Tunisia since it gained independence in 1956—will determine the members of the assembly that will draft a new constitution, appoint an interim government, and set dates for parliamentary and presidential elections next year. More than 90 percent of Tunisia’s 4.1 million registered voters cast ballots, an extremely high turnout that reflects strong support for democratic change. More than 100 parties are competing for seats in a proportional representation system.

    Tunisian secularists, leftists, and liberals were dismayed by the poor showing of many of their preferred parties. Some gathered in front of the office of Tunisia’s electoral commission to protest alleged voter fraud by Al-Nahda, which did better than expected in the vote. The secretary general of the International Federation for Human Rights in Tunisia complained that “the problem of Nahda is that they have a different discourse.… Today they will stick with the republic, but tomorrow—we’ll see.”

    Al-Nahda was expected to win the largest share of the votes, but it appears to have exceeded expectations. Unlike many of the newly formed secular political parties, it is well-organized with a strong grassroots presence. It was also well-financed due to access to funds from Islamic charities. There are also rumors of financial support from oil-rich Arab kingdoms of the Persian Gulf.

    Just as Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” was a harbinger of other popular uprisings in the Arab Spring, Tunisia’s elections may be a harbinger of Islamist victories in upcoming elections in two other countries influenced by the Arab Spring: Egypt and Libya. The leaders of Egypt’s secular political parties are reportedly already apprehensive about the Tunisian election results, fearful that they will also be sidelined in Egypt by an Islamist victory in Egypt’s November parliamentary elections.

    If secular political parties fare so poorly in Tunisia—which had a strong secular tradition, a well-educated population, and a relatively large middle class—then they may attract even fewer votes in Egypt and Libya, which have much stronger Islamist political movements. Despite the fact that the initial leadership of most of the Arab Spring protests were secular pro-democracy liberals, the election results from Tunisia suggest that secular liberals could soon become canaries in the coal mine.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Tunisian Elections Dominated by the Islamist Al-Nahda Party

    1. LibertyAtStake says:

      Yeah, but Reuters said they were "moderate Islamists" – so that makes it democratic, right?

      d(^_^)b http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/
      “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

    2. steve h says:

      Liberty – you might want to look at the root of 'Progressive'. It is Progress. That is the only thing that will keep America as a power – progress. Go back and look through the writings and speeches of our founding fathers – and compared how many times you see liberal and liberty written to the number of times you see conservative written. You won't find conservative anywhere, because conservativism means to become stale and spoil and fall behind those who are actually makign progress. I'm still baffled by the conservatives who fail to look at the emperical evidence of economic policy and see what has worked and what has not. You'll find progressive/liberal fiscal policy has done far better than conservative policies.

    3. LibertyAtStake says:

      Ugh. Where to begin? First, all movement is not progress. Much movement is regression. Second, the modern day "conservative" label dates to the 1950's movement (Wm. F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, Frank Meyer and others) to preserve the classical liberalism of The Enlightment that guided America's Founders. Third, this "conservative" movement arose as a reaction to the 60 or so years of policy wreckage inflicted upon the republic by the "Progressive" movement having its roots in the late 19th century among an American intelligentsia that was afflicted with Europe envy. After they wore out the "Progressive" label (mostly under Wilson), they switched the brand name to "liberal", and are now trying to switch the branding back because they wore out "liberal" in recent decades and they think we have short memories.

      d(^_^)b http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/
      “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

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