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The people have voted, long live democracy

The header of the main Tunisian newspaper this morning. Over 70% of entitled Tunisians casted their ballots yesterday in the first free and fair elections of the Tunisian history. A turnout much higher than expected. Everywhere in the country long queues of people were formed in front of the polling stations. People arriving at rush hour had to wait up to 5 hours to cast their vote. Some stations surpassed the closing time by 1,5 hour because of the continuous flow of voters. Of the on forehand registered voters, 90% casted its vote in the end. In several voting districts, 100% of registered citizens voted. Not only foreign media were surprised by the high turn out, Tunisians themselves did not suspect such an enthusiasm.

Images of proud Tunisians which just voted have been distributed throughout the country by using Facebook and Youtube. The blue index finger pointed in the air is the sign of people to show and proof that they voted (the right index finger is dipped in ink after having voted). No intense partying, however some honking cars. Those returned from voting, took their place in a café where election programs are broadcasted all day long. There is a great atmosphere in the capital Tunis, an atmosphere which reminds me of the first days after the revolution op January 14, days in which people felt liberated and delighted.

A tour through the neighbourhood makes clear that this really is a special day. The main streets are empty, cafes are full and polling stations are bursting. People are joyful also in the less well-of neighbourhoods. People are somehow astonished by the free voting procedure. In front of each polling station, people gather to watch the scene and to discuss the latest news.

The many election observers dispatched throughout the country (see my previous blog) have not reported about any serious incidents. Against al expectations, there were no security issues at all, the 20.000 military and police summoned for the elections have done their work. There are nevertheless some reports of attempts of influencing voters at the polling station. There are rumours going around that 30 dinar bills have been handed out and there has been question of polling station staff encouraging voters to cast for a specific party. These incidents will be investigated and appropriate measures will be taken.

Leaves us with the election results… The ISIE, the independent election authority, will not publish the results before tomorrow afternoon. This to the great frustration of many Tunisian who simply can’t wait for the final results. The big question is, how many seats will the islamist party of Ennahda gain? For the moment this remains uncertain, although the first preliminary polling results signify a big win for the islamists. Several polling stations have finished their counting and are publishing the results, therefore bit after bit the results become clear. Radiostations and Facebook are used to spread the news.

The upcoming hours and days will be completely dedicated to analysing the results: how many seats for Ennahda, what possible coalitions and how do party leaders react?

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