First free vote of the Arab Spring
Up to 7.5 million Tunisians will be entitled to vote today, although only 4.4 million have registered, in the first properly free vote since independence from France in 1956.
The vote will be for a 217 seat constitutional assembly which will have two key roles, to draft a new constitution and to select an interim president. The interim president can then appoint a new government or keep the existing interim government in place.
Voting will take place across 33 electoral districts, 27 of which are in Tunisia and six in overseas missions. In each district there are a maximum of 10 seats. There are more than 11,000 candidates from 100 parties taking part and voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.
Ennahda or Renaissance Party is expected to do well, with polls suggesting that they may get around 30% of the vote. An islamist party, they have entered into an increasingly bitter campaign with secular parties about how Islamist they truly are; they suggest that they are modern and progressive but the secular parties say that they will impose a hard-line Islamist regime.
Two other parties to watch are Mubadara (Initiative) and Watan (Nation) both of which are made up of, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the deposed dictator’s supporters and who may do well by utilising the regimes old patronage network.
Results are expected later today or tomorrow.