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Voices from Tunisia: How will you vote in the parliamentary elections?

Middle East Eye caught up with Tunisians in the country’s capital and asked how they intend to vote in these historic elections.
The Media Centre open in Tunis on Wednesday to host international journalists covering Sunday's parliamentary elections (AFP)
TUNIS - Nearly four years ago, a revolution ousted President Zine El Abdine Ben Ali’s 23-year reign and sent ripples throughout the Middle East and North Africa. On Sunday, Tunisians will cast their votes for their first-ever democratically elected parliament after the approval of the country's new constitution this year, written by the National Constituent Assembly elected in 2011.
The two major contenders are Nidaa Tounes, a secular party including many Ben Ali-era politicians including its founder and leader Beji Caid Essebsi, and Ennahda, an Islamist party that is led by Rached Ghannouchi. Ennahda won a plurality in the last election in 2011 and subsequently formed a government with two secular parties, Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol (Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties).
In late November and December, two rounds of presidential elections will be held.

Naweres, 26, graphic designer

Naweres, 26, graphic designer (MEE/Emir Sfaxi)
I plan on voting for Nidaa Tounes because it’s the only party that can beat Ennahda. I don’t want Ennahda to rule our country again. During the period that Ennahda controlled the National Constituent Assembly, there was a lot of terrorism. There was a lot of violence, and only Ennahda was responsible for it.

Also, I don’t trust Rached Ghannouchi. Ennahda says that they moved from an aggressive program to a peaceful position, but I don’t believe it. Things will get much worse if they get control of the country for the next five years.

In Nidaa Tounes, the politicians are experienced and know how to run the country. They are not extremists. They have a solid programme, especially an excellent program for cultural development. They plan on opening more cinemas and galleries. That’s really important - culture is important for Tunisia.

Mohamed, 42, restaurant cashier

Mohamed, 42, restaurant cashier (MEE/Emir Sfaxi)
Ennahda is the best hope that Tunisia has. It worked hard ahead of the elections and deserves to win. I’m going to vote for Ennahda because honestly no other party has any credibility left at this point.

When Ennahda was in the [National] Constituent Assembly, everyone colluded against them. But they weren’t responsible for the security problems or the bad economy. There were so many strikes and protests. It was unfair. What did people expect?

Ennahda cares our about values and dignity as Tunisians and represents all of us.

Rani, 35, computer salesman 

Rani, computer salesman (MEE/Emir Sfaxi)
I am going to vote for Slim Riahi’s party, the Free Patriotic Union. I think that because Riahi is already wealthy he has no need to steal from the country or the citizens. It’s true that [Riahi] doesn’t have a lot of political experience, but who cares? All of the politicians from before [during Ben Ali’s era] were experienced, and look how corrupt they were.

Riahi made a fortune from nothing and can help Tunisia. I trust him personally. He’s young, smart and understands business. Tunisia needs a smart and experienced businessman to fix the economy. That’s the most important priority. 

Msaddeq, 53, taxi driver

Msaddeq, 53, taxi driver (MEE/Emir Sfaxi)
I am going to vote for Nidaa Tounes because it’s the only party that can lead through the transitional phase and unite us as Tunisians. We are very divided, so we need strong leadership.

They are carrying on the legacy of Habib Bourguiba, who made Tunisia strong and independent. I think Nidaa Tounes can do that for us again, make us a strong nation again. We have a lot of problems to deal with. If those problems aren’t fixed, Tunisians will suffer.

Nidaa Tounes is going to fix the economy and our security problems. They should crush the terrorists. [The party] is made up of the people who built the new Tunisia, who made it a modern nation. It is only because of Nidaa Tounes that we are even going to have democratic elections in the first place. [Transitional President] Marzouki and Ennahda made things much worse while they were in power.

Arbia, 24, student

Arbia, student (MEE/Emir Sfaxi)
There is no question about it  - I’m going to vote for Ennahda. It is the only party that guarantees us freedom of religion. I’ve read the party’s programme and outline for the future and agree with it strongly. I thought their women’s rights program is good, also. Honestly, Ennahda is the only party that has really worked hard on women’s rights and cares.

Maybe in a few years, I will want to start wearing a niqab. If the secular parties rule the country, I fear that they may outlaw the niqab.

When Ennahda was in power, everyone was against them. They didn’t use enough force, in my opinion, and they didn’t have enough power. But if they control the parliament for five years, they can change the country.

I think there should be sharia law in Tunisia in the next twenty years. This is our religion. Most Tunisians are Muslims and that’s what [Islam] requires of us.

Mohammad, 58, accountant

Mohammad, 58, accountant (MEE/Emir Sfaxi)
I still haven’t decided who I am going to vote for. I want to vote for a Marxist party, but I’m not going to vote for the Popular Front. They compromise too much. They are no longer true Marxists. Tunisia’s last true communist was Chokri Belaid, and the terrorists killed him.

Ennahda causes trouble for everyone, but they will win this election unfortunately. It’s a shame that Tunisians have to unite all secular parties together to even compete with Ennahda in the elections. It’s always Ennahda on one side, and the rest of the country on the other.

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