Sunday’s Tunisian elections for 217 members of a constituent assembly (that’s one that will write a constitution) went off well, with very high turnout (reportedly 90%!) and order in the streets. This is a marvelous start to the democratic era in Tunisia, one that sets a fine example and a hopeful precedent.
Some will worry that a moderate Islamist party (Ennahda) apparently won a plurality of votes, perhaps as many as 40 per cent. It is not surprising when a revolution that deposed an avowed secularist leads to an Islamist win. Get used to it. It is likely to happen in Egypt and Libya as well. The key here is the process, not the result. The official count has not yet been tallied, but Ennahda claims to have done its own tally based on counts posted at polling stations. That is a credit both to Ennahda‘s organization and to the transparency of the electoral process. The opposition is accepting the results:
The PDP respects the democratic game. The people gave their trust to those it considers worthy of that trust. We congratulate the winner and we will be in the ranks of the opposition.
Ennahda is negotiating to form a coalition with two secularist parties. They would be wise to do so, if only to distribute the risk. This next year is not going to be an easy one for Tunisia. The economy is on a steep downward path. Preparation of a new constitution will not be easy. New elections are expected next year, or in early 2013. Ennahda is not getting a blank check but rather a limited mandate to manage the constitutional process well.
Sunday’s elections were postponed from July. The Tunisians have used the extra time well. Let’s hope they can exploit the next year to prepare a constitution worthy of following on from these smooth-running elections. That would require a broad consultative process allowing Tunisians of all stripes to participate. Like the elections, the constitution-making process is better done well than quickly.