The New York Times reports that millions of Tunisians voted yesterday in their nation's first open election.
“Tunisians showed the world how to make a peaceful revolution without icons, without ideology, and now we are going to show the world how we can build a real democracy,” said Moncef Marzouki, founder of a liberal political party and a former dissident exile, as he waited for hours in a long line outside a polling place in the coastal town of Sousse.
“This will have a real impact in places like Libya and Egypt and Syria, after the fall of its regime,” he added. “The whole Arab world is watching.”
In another first for the region, a moderate Islamic party, Ennahda, is expected to win at least a plurality of seats in the Tunisian assembly. The party’s leaders have vowed to create another kind of new model for the Arab world, one reconciling Islamic principles with Western-style democracy.
Results are expected to be tallied within days.The Los Angeles Times adds that the voting was of special importance to the Tunisian community in southern California. And Reuters notes that the peaceful nature of the entire elections process is expected to resonate across North Africa and the Middle East.
Contrary to some predictions, the vote passed off smoothly and peacefully, with no repeat of the violent clashes between police and hardline Islamists which broke out in the capital in the week before the election.
"This victory shows that it is possible for an non-radical, Islamist party to win an election," said Sofiane Ben Salah, an independent Tunisian political analyst. "This is the first time this has happened in the Arab world."