Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, held its first elections since its longtime dictator was toppled after a popular revolt. The elections were seen as one of the brightest moments in the regional movement.
But, today, it became clear that the path to democracy won’t be easy. After the country announced that the Islamist Ennahda party had won 41 percent of the votes and 90 seats of the 217-member assembly, protests erupted across the country.
The Telegraph reports on the scene:
In the town of Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the uprising that ousted Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, more than 2,000 young people marched on the headquarters of the Ennahda party and pelted security forces with stones after they learned that votes for an opposition party had been discounted.
Witnesses said the group broke doors and windows of the Ennahda building and set alight tyres on the town’s main road. The mayor’s office was also set on fire. Reports say police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
A similar protest was under way in the town of Regueb, some 30 miles from Sidi Bouzid, where a gunshot was fired at the local Ennahda offices.
Reuters reports that the reason for the protests is that people in Sidi Bouzid feel “marginalized and ignored by the ruling elite.” Eleven months ago, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the city to protest poverty and repression. That kicked off the protests that led to the ouster of Ben Ali.
Reuters adds that another issue that sparked protests was that the Popular List party, which was supported in Sidi Bouzid, was disqualified “because of alleged campaign violations.”
The Australian Broadcasting Company reports that the Ennahda tried to preempt protests even before the results were announced. They report:
“We salute Sidi Bouzid and its sons who launched the spark and we hope that God will have made Mohamed Bouazizi a martyr,” said Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi, a soft-spoken Islamic scholar who spent 22 years in exile in Britain.
“We will continue this revolution to realise its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, developing and prosperous in which the rights of God, the Prophet, women, men, the religious and the non-religious are assured because Tunisia is for everyone.