“But Tunisia is on the periphery of the Arab world, so it remains to be seen what effect free elections here will have on other Arab countries like Egypt”, he adds.
If the opinion polls are to be believed, Tunisia may also become the first of the Arab Spring countries to vote in an Islamic party.
Nahda (Awakening), Tunisia’s equivalent of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, is expected to get anywhere from 22 to 30 percent of the vote according to various opinion polls.
In a majority voting system this would give Nahda a clear victory, which is why Tunisia has opted for a proportional voting system. But as the biggest political party, Nahda will undoubtedly put its stamp on the Tunisian political landscape.
Nahda’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi, has sought to reassure Tunisians and the world about his party’s intentions. Women’s rights will be guaranteed, Mr. Ghannouchi says, and there are no plans to impose an alcohol ban on Tunisia’s tourism sector, which provided 350,000 jobs, or 12 percent of the workforce, before the revolution.
“The political debate has forced Nahda to change its tone considerably,” says Al-Amrani. “They say they are a democratic party. For now we have no choice but to take their word for it.”