Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tunisian Election Predictions

Tunisian polling stations are just closing now, at 7pm local time, but voting will continue until all those in voting bureaus at the time of closing have voted. The Independent High Electoral Commission, or ISIE by its French Acronym, has announced that final results will likely not be available until Tuesday evening. As we wait for results to come in, I would like to venture a couple predictions, assuming voting and counting take place fairly.

1- Islamist-oriented Ennahdha is likely to win over 40%

Ennahdha is the best organized party in Tunisia, and by far the most popular. There are several reasons for this. As one Ennahdha member told me earlier this week, before Ennahdha was a political party, before it was even a movement, it was an organization - mainly of religiously oriented, underground political activists - which has its roots in the early 1980's. It has invaluable grassroots experience, which it has used to organize rallies (and according to unverified rumors - weddings, religious ceremonies, and community giveaways) and motivate their broad-based constituency. While the latest polls, which came out prior to the campaign season, put Ennahdha support at about 20-30%, undecided voters, which made up over 50%, are likely to swing in favor of Ennahdha.

Dozens of taxi drivers have told me, "the others are all thieves" in their eyes - Of course this must be taken with a grain of salt, but perception is important and the anecdote seems to hold water. Prior to the campaign season, the two parties at the top of the polls, Ennadha and the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), were also the two with the biggest name recognition. While both Ennahdha leaders and PDP leaders spent time in jail under Ben Ali's regime, more Ennahdha leaders spent considerably more time in prison than PDP leaders. On top of that, PDP was a legal party under Ben Ali, trying desperately to be the voice of opposition in a political entity that tightly controlled opposition. These differences have worked to convince many Tunisians that Ennahdha was truly the voice of opposition against the old regime.

2- PDM is likely to come in second

PDM, or Al-Qotb, or the Pole Democratique Moderniste, is a coalition grouping of 4 leftist parties and 5 citizen initiatives. The best known of the parties, Ettajdid, is an old party that branched out from the communists and was legal under the former regime. The grouping has worked hard to be the voice of the Tunisian left without distancing itself from Islam. They have managed to organize impressive rallies that draw enthusiastic crowds, made up primarily of young Tunisians. They have also included numerous young candidates in their candidature lists. By grouping together, the movement has managed to tailor its message, with one party targeting artists, another evolved communists, and yet another internet activists who want an internet free from corporate interests and censorship. Meanwhile, Tunisia's best known communist party, POCT, has lost considerable support from leftists after hints from its leader, Hamma Hammami, that it will work together in coalition with Ennahdha. As for more centrist parties, like PDP and CPR, it seems as if Tunisians are likely to stay away from the "safe choice/center" parties the first time they cast their ballots.

1 comment:

  1. i wonder if there is a way to quantify this... eamon