Washington Post Report
Tunisians head to the polls on Sunday for a presidential election seen as a crucial test for the country, the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring Revolts of 2011, but a distinctly fragile one as it struggles with economic woes and the threat of Islamic extremism.
The election, just the second here to choose a president, comes less than two months after the death of 92- year- old President Beji Caid Essebsi who was elected in 2014. Before its revolution, the former French colony had two rulers after gaining independence in 1956.
Now 26 candidates are vying to succeed Essebsi. They include secularists, moderate islamists, populists and an imprisoned media tycoon.
The peaceful run up to Sunday’s election is the latest sign of the fledgling North African democracy’s unique standing.
In a region ruled by dictators and monarchs, where elections are usually rigged and civil strife has beset societies since the Arab Spring, Tunisia has held televised presidential debates- a first in the Arab world.
By contrast all the credible candidates in Egypt’s presidential election last year were arrested or pushed out, allowing the country’s autocratic leader Abdel Fatah al Sissi to easily win again.
Indeed neighbouring Algeria and Sudan are experiencing Tunisia- like moments. Street protests in Algeria unfolding now for more than 30 weeks have not only forced out long time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika but continue to demand democratic reforms.
In Sudan, demonstrations forced toppled dictator Omar Hassan al- Bashir and a power sharing agreement signed last month has moved the country a step closer to full democracy.