Tunis: The campaign for Tunisia`s landmark
elections for a constitutional assembly began on Saturday, featuring
81 political parties competing in this former dictatorship.
Tunisia overthrew its long ruling leader President Zine
El Abidine Ben Ali in January after a month-long popular
uprising that inspired similar movements across the region and
has remade the face of the Arab world.
The past nine months have seen further demonstrations,
local unrest and rise in crime across this North African
nation of 10 million, but many hope the elections will bring
Tunisia`s experiment with democracy after a half century
of an autocratic state is being closely watched around the
world for its impact on the rest of the region.
"The elections should take place under favorable
conditions, but we are ready for any eventuality," said Kamel
Jendoubi, the head of the commission overseeing elections.
Security officials say that all forces will be mobilised
to ensure stability during the elections.
There are 60,000 members of security forces, including
10,000 new recruits, and 45,000 soldiers in the army.
Since El Abidine`s fall, what was once one of the most
repressive country`s in the Arab world has seen an explosion
of political activity, with the formation of 111 political
Of them, 81 will be competing in the election in 785
together with another 676 lists of independent candidates
across 33 constituencies for 217 seats.
Those elected will then have a year to write a
constitution to dictate how Tunisians will govern themselves
before elections for a parliament will be held.
Three weeks before the elections, polls have shown that
at least half of the country`s 7 million voters remain
undecided, something candidates will be looking to address
with hundreds of meetings around the country to present their
All lists eligible for three minutes on state television.
The front-runners in the election are the well organised
moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which has polled around the
fifth of the electorate and the center left Progressive
Democratic Party with around 10 per cent support.