Tunisians are voting for their first directly-elected president in a landmark poll, widely seen as a key step in the transition to democracy. Dictator Ben Ali was ousted in a popular uprising nearly four years ago.
Voting got off to a peaceful start on Sunday, as Tunisians participated in their first free presidential elections since the 2011 revolution that ended the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked Arab Spring revolts across the Middle East.
“It’s a historic day, the first presidential election in Tunisia held under advanced democratic norms,” Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said. “God willing, it will be a great festival of democracy.”
From The New York Times
Four years ago today, a 26-year-old college graduate went off to work in a small town in Tunisia.
He was eking out a living as a fruit and vegetable vendor to support his mother, uncle and five siblings. But he was continually harassed by government officials.
That Friday, the authorities confiscated his wares and beat him. When they refused to return his property, he doused himself with paint thinner and lit a match in front of the governor’s office.
The despair and death of the young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, caused anti-government protests. Within a month, Tunisia’s leader fled, ending 23 years of authoritarian rule.
Mr. Bouazizi’s match also lit a fuse in the region. A wave of protests struck Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Jordan, and even spread to Turkey. Leaders have been toppled and blood has been shed in the Arab Spring.
Tunisia held its first free and democratic presidential election last month. And when Tunisians voted in 2011 to elect an assembly, Mr. Bouazizi’s mother said it was “a moment of victory for my son, who died defending dignity and liberty.”