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Tunisians Head to Polls to Elect a New Parliament

Voters stand in lines to cast their votes at a polling station in Tunis. Photo by Tunisia Live shared on Twitter

Voters stand in lines to cast their votes at a polling station in Tunis. Photo by Tunisia Live shared on Twitter

Tunisians are voting today to elect a parliament under the country's new constitution. This year's elections are one of the final stages in the country's democratic transition after the ousting of former dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

This year more than 13,000 candidates are competing for 217 seats at the Assembly of the People's Deputies which will serve for the next five years. Competing electoral lists include political parties, coalitions and independent candidates.

Tunisia's electoral law does not allow opinion polls but two of the strongest contenders in this year’s legislative elections are the Islamist Ennahda Movement, which emerged as the winner of the 2011 election; and Nidaa Tounes, founded in 2012 and led by 86-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, who served under the previous autocratic regimes of Habib Bourguiba and Zine el-Abidin Ben Ali.

Tunisia's proportional representation system means that it is very unlikely for one party to win an overall majority. As a result, post-electoral coalitions will be fundamental in determining the outlook of the future government.

Polling stations opened at 7am and will close at 6pm. More than 5 million registered voters are eligible to cast their votes.

Mark Green, the director of the International Republican Institute which deployed a team of election observers throughout Tunisia, shared this photograph at a polling station in the capital Tunis:

Turn out differed from one polling station to another. Chafik Sarsar, head of the independent commission overseeing the elections described the turnout as ‘encouraging’.

Tunis-based independent journalist Elodie Auffray shared turnout rates at a number of polling stations she visited:

Polling center in Borj Louzir, not a single line, but as of midday 310 from the 520 registered voters in one bureau did cast their votes

In this voting center near Grmbalia, 206 of the 818 registered voters did vote as of 9:45am

Blogger Karim Benabdallah tweeted a photograph of his inked finger:

Done, after less than an hour of queuing compared to six hours in 2011

Voter turnout is expected to be lower this year compared to 2011 due to the popular dissatisfaction with the performance of the political class during the past three years. In 2011, Tunisians elected a National Constituent Assembly for a one year term to draft a constitution. But the assembly's activities lasted three years and a political crisis rocked the country in 2013 after the assassination of two political opponents to the previous Ennahdha-led government. In addition, the interim authorities’ lack of response to urgent socioeconomic demands disillusioned a number of Tunisians.

Vanessa Szakal from Nawaat which spoke to protesters, who on October 23 staged a protest calling for a boycott of the elections, wrote:

Many evoke a disinterest in elections given the economic crisis and security issues that have only exacerbated over the course of the past several years. Promises made during the 2011 elections initially inspired very high hopes but have since been the source of extreme disappointment. The bipolarization of the electoral process, essentially based upon the notion of strategic voting, and the struggle against terrorism do not help the silent majority to decide whether or not to vote. In the almost complete absence of economic and political programs, it is difficult to differentiate between the hundreds of electoral candidates.

Yet some, could not hide their excitement.

Tunis-based journalist Asma Ghribi tweeted:

Some hinted that the world should forget a little bit about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and pay more attention to the ongoing democratic process in Tunisia:

Others hailed Tunisia's relatively peaceful and smooth political transition in comparison to other countries in the region:

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