Tunisia Holds First Free Vote After Arab Spring

Sunday, October 23 marks an historic day, not only in Tunisia, but for the entire Arab world as citizens go to the polls in what will be a free election for a 217-member assembly whose mandate will be to appoint a temporary interim government and to draft a new constitution.

Elections come exactly nine months after the former President Zinedine el Abidine Ben Ali fled the country on January 14 as the first of many mass demonstrations across the entire Arab world occurred in Tunisia.

Vying for power is the Islamist party Ennahda, which is expected to gain the most votes although it will probably not receive a clear majority in the assembly. The other parties are secular, and campaigning has been marred by disagreements between them and the Islamists, especially concerning party funding and voter apathy.

Reports however from Tunisia describe widespread optimism as the campaign ended and the voting began.

The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the man who is given credit for igniting the Arab Spring in December 2010 by setting himself on fire said that the election shows that her son’s actions has brought dignity and freedom to Tunisia.

“Now I am happy that my son’s death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice,” Manoubia Bouazizi said. “I’m an optimist; I wish success for my country.”