Witnessing Tunisia's Historic Election

Publication Date: 
25 Oct 2011

Tunisia held its first democratic election on Sunday, lighting the way for nations experiencing the Arab Spring and others hoping to see democratic reforms take root within their government. The turnout was high, as citizens were eager to vote for the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), a body tasked with writing a constitution within the next year.

Nicolas Kaczorowski, IFES Country Director in Tunisia, shares his experience of the historic election.

Question: Tell us about Election Day. How did the day go?

Answer: This historical day for Tunisia was marked by a very active participation of voters who demonstrated commitment and patience to cast their ballot. Some had to wait several hours to vote in the burning sun. In the long queues, some voters could not contain their tears; others held up their inked fingers with pride at having taken part in the first free and democratic election. Election proceeded peacefully and in an orderly manner. Another remarkable feature was the dedication, honesty and endurance of poll workers who performed their duties in an impartial manner and continue to do so in aggregation centers.

Q: What was the feeling like on the streets? 

A: There was deep feeling of taking part in an historical event for Tunisia first and foremost, but also for the entire Arab world. Voters were filled with a sense of responsibility and dignity to make this first democratic election a success. The day was devoid of tension and full of pride. The long queues did not discourage voters to participate in the future of the countries by electing the 217 members to the National Constituent Assembly.

Q: How long did the counting of the votes take and where were the ballots taken after they were counted?

A: Counting took place in polling stations immediately after the end of voting at 7 p.m. The start of counting was delayed in some polling stations due to the fact that voters who had arrived before the closing of the poll at 7 p.m. were still waiting in line to cast their ballot. These voters were allowed to vote in accordance with the law.

Given the high participation and the high number of lists, counting lasted several hours. Once counted, the results were taken to collection points before being forwarded to aggregation centers located at the level of each electoral district.

Q: How long is the complaints and disputes period and what is the process?

A: Head of candidate lists have 48 hours to present a challenge. The administrative court has seven days to review the complaints and then maximum of three days to make a decision and inform the complainants. It is the first time that the administrative court is involved in adjudicating election disputes in Tunisia.

Q: When will official results be posted?

A: There is no legal deadline for posting election results. The electoral law provides for the publication of detailed election results per polling stations. The ISIE (Supreme Independent Institute for Election) has announced that detailed results will be posted on its website. Election results were also posted in each polling station immediately after counting was completed to ensure the integrity and transparency of the process.

Q: What happens next now that a National Constituent Assembly has been elected?

A: The NCA is mandated to draft a new constitution within one year of its election. Once the final results are announced by the ISIE and members of the NCA are determined, the NCA will meet to elect its president. The NCA will also have to adopt their internal rules of procedures. It is also expected that the NCA will elect a new president of the Tunisian Republic.

For photos of Election Day in Tunis, click here.