Elections to the new constituent assembly in Tunisia are set for next Sunday. Voting in the Tunisian immigrant community in France—which has its own constituencies and candidate lists—begins on Wednesday and will last through Friday. This afternoon there was an election rally at a large meeting hall in Montreuil, a banlieue of Paris, in which several parties parties participated, notably Moncef Marzouki’s CPR, Ettakatol, the PDP, and Ennahda. The first three are laïque opposition parties of the Ben Ali era and Ennahda is, of course, Islamist. There were several hundred people in the hall, all Tunisian immigrants (my friend and I looked to be the only non-Tunisians there apart from a couple of cameramen) and with most of the women wearing headscarves. The parties sent members of their leaderships from Tunis plus the local candidates, except for Ennahda, which was represented by Rached Ghannouchi himself. To say that he was the star of the rally would be an understatement. The speakers of the other parties received polite applause but when Ghannouchi made his entry the hall was on its feet. He spoke for some twenty minutes (the rule, which he respected). It was all in Arabic—there was almost no French spoken at the rally—so I didn’t catch 100% of what was said but got the essential. Ghannouchi is a dynamic speaker and was moderate sounding. Spoke about protecting liberty; that Tunisia will be open to the whole world—as Islam enjoins openness—, including Europe; asserted that non-hijab wearing women have nothing to worry about (he specified that two of Ennahda’s lists in Tunis are headed by unveiled women), that Tunisians of all religions are united (he specifically mentioned Jews here)… On the recent brouhaha over the film ‘Persepolis’, he reserved his criticism for the TV station that aired it… After Ghannouchi finished—with the hall once again on its feet—, most people headed for the exit, even though the event wasn’t over.
And this was in Paris. It has been clear since this process started in the spring that Ennahda is destined for a solid first-place finish on October 23rd. Polls, for what they’re worth, are predicting that Ennahda will win over 30% of the vote. I’ve been predicting somewhere in the 40-45% range. After this afternoon, I wouldn’t be surprised if they break 50%. Rached Ghannouchi & Co are headed toward a big landslide, no doubt about it. This is one instance where I will be most happy to be wrong in my prediction but don’t think I will be. A new Tunisia is in the making. Get ready for it.
I took some photos with my mobile phone, which weren’t too good. Here are a few.