Tunisia is where the Arab Spring revolt began. It is also the first country to go through elections post its Arab Spring revolution. And who is about to win a land slide victory in this election? The Islamist party of course.
Tunisians will vote Sunday for a constituent assembly that will set the course for a new government and write the nation’s laws. The outcome will be another step in the evolution of this region after a year of unpredictable events. Tunisia’s revolution which forced its long time dictator leader Ben Ali to flee his country empowered the Arab street. Egyptians overthrew Mubarak, Libyans fought a bloody war and with the aid of NATO brought down and killed Gaddafi. In other countries like Syria and Yemen unrest continues still.
While Tunisians are rightly excited about their first free elections the anticipated victory of the Islamist party has liberals and secularists worried about the future of civil liberties.
Many are also worried that the elections could be marred by low participation, violence and accusations of fraud.
The Interim government was not able to address economic concerns and joblessness. In fact in the 10 months since the uprising, Tunisia’s economy and employment, part of the reason for the revolution in the first place, has only become worse as tourists and foreign investors have stayed away.
These issues along with youth disenchantment are used by Ennahda the Islamist party to gain momentum. The expected victory of Ennahda in a comparatively secular society like Tunisia could have wide implications for similar religious parties in the region.
The secular elite fear the rise of Ennahda puts their secular values under threat. While Ennahda has been at pains to assuage the concerns of secularists and Western powers, many Tunisians do not believe this plot.
Leaders in Africa and the Middle East are watching Arab Spring revolutions with great concern. It creates a powerful force for change which did not exist before. It drives democratic reforms and gives more power to the people. Democracy is picking pace in Uganda where a recent oil crisis creates a real debate between the people, parliament and the government.
Going from dictatorship to democracy in less than nine months, Tunisia is not only the seedbed of the Arab Spring but its model. But keep in mind that the outcome of this model may not be what the west expects.