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October 22, 2011

Tunisian Election By the Numbers
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

It'd be a shame if Tunisian elections for a body to write a new Constitution were overlooked; just nine months after the country's revolution ignited the Arab Spring, the vote looks set to go off smoothly and tell us quite a bit about the possibilities and limitations of progress around the Arab world.  Below, a few numbers that may surprise or enlighten:

Percentage unemployment, already high, has risen since the Revolution:  143%.

Position of employment in public concerns going into the election:  first.

Number of political parties competing: 110, plus coalitions and independent lists.

Number with candidates in all 33 districts:  four.

Proportion of candidates on each party list that must be female:  50%.

Number of rulers Tunisia had between independence in 1956 and the revolution in February 2011:  two.

How the leading Islamic party, Renaissance, is expected to perform:  25-30%.

What does it all mean?  The mandate of the new constituent assembly is unclear; does it name a new government, and if so, how quickly?  How long does it have to do its job?  How it answers these questions, and how well Tunisia's political parties, secular and religious, work together will tell much more than tomorrow's raw numbers.


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In Tunisia, the President is elected to five-year terms with no term limit. He appoints a prime Minister and cabinet, who play a strong role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators are appointed by the central government. Mayors and municipal councils, which fill a local consultative role, are elected. This system was established by a provision of the country's Code of Personal Status, introduced by the former President Habib Bourguiba in 1956.

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