Diaspora Tunisians cast votes in Egypt, setting the stage for the country's new era

Nada El-Kouny, Sunday 23 Oct 2011

Ahram Online speaks to Tunisians in Cairo as they cast their votes in the country's first general elections since the January revolution

at their embassy in Cairo, 22 October (Photo: Nada El-Kouny)

“I am voting for Al-Nahda because that is the party that will ensure that Tunisia respects me,” said a 25-year-old woman casting her vote for national Constituent Assembly elections at the Tunisian Embassy in Cairo. There is need for an “Islamic identity” for Tunisia, she said.

The Tunisian community in Egypt cast their votes for the Constituent Assembly elections on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The mood at the embassy was to a large extent very calm as people showed up across the three days, holding their registration papers and passports in hand.

A 28-year-old engineer also voted for Al-Nahda, “because these are people we can trust,” he said. He stated that they have a respectable past and they faced up to a lot; living under repression and being expelled from their country. When asked about how he made his decision, he stated that it was by his own conviction as he attended several conferences organised by the party.

“Al-Nahda will truly bring us independence!” exclaimed a 60-year-old man as he waited with his family to enter the room where votes were cast. Eager to provide an in-depth account of Tunisia’s history, he said that the country has been ridden with colonialism for decades in all its shapes and forms, and the way to truly break away from that is by voting for Al-Nahda.  

Turnout seemed less than expected during Thursday and Saturday. And not everyone was sure of their choice. One woman who exited the voting booth took a while to remember the name of the party she had just votes for. “I voted for the party that ended with the word ‘Tunis’,” she said hesitantly.

A 36-year-old actress said she had voted for the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) out of fear of the Islamists. “I do not want anyone to use the purity of our revolution to their advantage and to go against it,” she said loudly in the lobby of the embassy after casting her vote.

“We do not want to lose what we have achieved in the past 60 years,” said a French-Tunisian businessman who currently resides in Egypt, “and that is why I am voting for the PDP.”

“I feel very happy… this is the same feeling of apprehension and suspense that we had on 14 January,” said a wide-eyed 30-year-old mother. She added that the coming period is going to be one filled with suspense. “I voted for the ‘Takatol’ (Democratic Party for Labour and Liberties) because it upholds human rights at its core and will make sure they are guaranteed,” she said.     

Criticisms did arise on the voting system. A 22-year-old man stated that the office in charge of the observers, the Independent Higher Electoral Authority (ISIE), is ridden with fulul, or remnants of the former regime, who are in charge of the voting processes in all foreign embassies. The same sentiment was also expressed by another woman who whispered: “Everyone in this office are fulul."

“Where are the observers? I do not see any,” another man inquired, as he looked around and pointed at the different people in the room.

One of the last women Ahram Online spoke to expressed that while the current period is very unclear and filled with uncertainty, “we have to vote to make sure that those we are to choose for the upcoming elections will move us forward.” 

Tunisia’s 7.2 million eligible voters within the country followed, as they went to polling stations Sunday to vote. The current Constituent Assembly vote is set to choose representatives for the new parliament that will appoint a new transitional government to sit for a year, in order to draft a new constitution.

Eighty-one parties are in the race, where 217 members will be elected for the coming period. Al-Nahda, Islamist-inspired, under the leadership of Rashed Al-Ghanoushi, is expected to win the majority of seats. The secular liberal PDP, under the leadership of Ahmed Najib Chebbi, is also expected to win significant votes, in addition to the Democratic Part for Labour and Liberties.

Results are expected Monday.

Short link: