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Eyes On Tunisia As Arab Spring Leader Heads To The Polls

Tunisia heads to the polls to elect its first permanent parliament.

Eyes On Tunisia As Arab Spring Leader Heads To The Polls
Voice of America

As Tunisia heads to the polls Sunday, it's in the international spotlight for the first time since it began the Arab Spring revolutions. 

It was in Tunisia in 2010 that a fruit vendor set himself on fire to protest the government, which led to the Tunisian Revolution, and ultimately to revolutions across the Middle East and north Africa. (Video via NATO)

Because of its role in the 2010 uprisings, and because it's traditionally been one of the more stable Arab countries, many are looking to Tunisia as a barometer for democracy in the region. And as far as elections go, this one's a doozy.  (Video via eNCA News)

AL JAZEERA: "15,000 candidates are competing for 217 seats in the National Assembly of the People ... Now, 96 parties are taking part in the elections but the main battle is likely to take place between conservative Ennahda and centerist Nidaa Tounes."

A writer for Quartz argues Tunisians are left with that choice because no one of the multitude of other parties has enough support to offer a third option. So if they want to vote against the Islamist Ennahda party, the only option with enough support to oppose it is Nidaa, which faces allegations of corruption. (Video via PBS)

Faced with that choice alone, it's easy to see why many Tunisians wouldn't be optimistic, but there's also the issue of unemployment, which many say hasn't improved since the 2010 uprising. 

RABAA HAJ RAOUIE VIA DEUTSCHE WELLE: "The situation that led to the revolution remains the same ... The people of SIdi Bouzid don't believe politicians anymore and that's when democracy is in danger." 

That kind of attitude could affect turnout, but so could security fears. A shootout with gunmen last week in a suburb of the capital Tunis left a policeman dead, as authorities tried to prevent a possible attack on a polling place. 

Regardless, some analysts say expectations should be tempered and regardless of the outcome, the election represents progress. 

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA VIA C-SPAN: "It was a hundred years until Europe actually became democratic, so I think that the expectation that you can democratize in countries with no prior experience with democracy that quickly ... it's a very naive expectation." 

It's expected none of the close to 100 parties competing in the elections will earn the 51 percent majority needed to form a government, which means some kind of coalition or agreement is likely. (Video via Press TV)

Either way, the elections will put in place the country's first permanent legislative body since the uprising and will set the stage for next month's presidential elections.