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Anxiety spreads as Tunisia braces for historic vote

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-10-20

On October 23, Tunisia will vote for a new Constituent Assembly in the country’s first free elections. But Tunisians are worried that the elections will provoke widespread violence.

On October 23, Tunisia will vote for a new Constituent Assembly, which will in turn have the power to appoint a new government until scheduled elections to be held at a later date. It will be the country’s first free elections.

But concern among Tunisians is growing. Residents of the capital Tunis are especially worried that the elections will provoke widespread violence.

The government has allotted 11,000 extra police officers and soldiers as part of a robust security initiative, though authorities deny rumours that a curfew will be enforced on election day. Still, many Tunisians are not reassured. Supermarkets have been flooded with families stocking up on provisions in case street violence after the vote prevents them from going outside.

“I am stocking up on everything. Pasta, couscous, tomatoes, everything...even cleaning products,” Malika told FRANCE 24. “I won't need to go out again for weeks!”

Malika described the atmosphere in Tunis as changed in the days leading up to the vote. “There is something very new happening,” she said. “We’re not used to elections like this, and we don’t know how it will go.”

Security companies are feeling similar anxiety. Guard and Total Security has recently seen business skyrocket and has hired roughly one hundred extra agents since the beginning of the year. “With the current situation in the country, we've seen an increased demand for security for company headquarters, in shopping centres, and indeed an increase in individuals hiring security guards for their homes,” explained Mnawar Bessyoud, the company’s director.

According to sociologist Mohamed Jouili, these reactions are completely normal. “Today’s political events can be scary. People are living in uncertainty, there’s no stability to reassure them,” he assessed. “There’s no clear political plan…people think things will end up in violence and anarchy.”

After the vote next Sunday, a temporary government will be appointed, offering Tunisians relative political stability as they undergo the long process of democratic transition.
 

Date created : 2011-10-18

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