It is said that the old name for Tunisia was Ifriqya, which was later used to refer to the entire African Continent. Today, the name is being used to label a world-wide movement. Robert Koehler of the Huffington Post had this to say about the Tunisian Effect: “It’s getting folks to realize, as Egyptians did, that you’re really only captive to the power of thugs for precisely as long as you believe yourself to be captive to the power of thugs.” Perhaps, but when you talk to the average Tunisian you quickly realize that they are not very concerned about geopolitics or worldwide protests, their focus and heart is on their country, their challenges, their future.
Encouraging as that may sound, the low voter registration numbers underline another reality and perhaps a disconnect between the rhetoric and what is actually taking place on the ground.
According to statistics gathered by the High Independent Authority for the Election (ISIE), the number of people who have registered to vote for the country’s Constitutional Assembly has increased to 27 percent, approximately 2.236 million out of 7.8 million eligible for voting. Although up 11% from last week, there are troublesome numbers, such as the percentage of women registered, which currently amounts to about “13 percent of the population”. Additionally, the percentage of registered voters between 21-31 years of age, indicate that they will not participate as enthusiastically as they did during the revolution. Some claim “that women and young people generally have little interest in politics”, while another camp states “that the reasons are deeper and go even further, claiming that the boycott is intended and not the result of ignorance.” Regardless, high voter turn out and transparency will be the key ingredients to a successful Tunisian election.
Tunisian Election Key Dates
- July 11-August 14: voter registration
- September 1-7: candidate registration
- October 1-21: electoral campaigning
- October 23: election day
From a security perspective, driving and bag snatching were the two highest security risks for Expats living in Tunisia . Although statistically this is still the case, there is a perception that Tunisia is at a much higher security risk. The Tunisian tourist industry, confirmed that when it comes to security, perception is reality. According to the Tunisian trade and Tourism Minister, Mr. Mehdi Houas, “tourist numbers are expected to fall to 3.5 million, compared with 7 million tourists in 2010 who together brought in 3.5 billion dinars ($2.55 billion) in revenues.”
Expats who were in Tunisia during the revolution have a lot to be proud of and even more to look forward to. As we witness the Tunisia Effect make its way throughout the world, we can hopefully value even more the lessons and experience that we gained during those challenging months.
The images coming from all over the Arab world, London, Tel Aviv, and Madrid are stark reminders that the Tunisian Effect has spread and spread wildly. For better or worse, whether overseas or back home, it is safe to say that we are living in a very challenging time period.
Fortunately, we can benefit from our inspiring yet challenging Winter Revolution Experience and adjust smoothly to this “new reality”.