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Tunisia elections delayed to ensure "transparency"

Tunisia will hold a presidential election Oct. 23, not July 24 as planned, because conditions are not yet right, the prime minister said.

Tunisia will hold a presidential election Oct. 23, not July 24 as planned, because conditions are not yet right, the prime minister said Wednesday.

The vote — the first in the fledgling North African democracy since the ouster of autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali — would have been impractical in July because of technical hitches, such as nearly 400,000 Tunisians lacking voter cards, officials said, the FT reports.

The popular uprising in Tunisia sparked pro-democracy revolts around the Middle East, and the success or failure of elections in Tunisia would send a strong signal to other nations in the region, writes the AP.

"The world is watching us. Tunisia today has an extraordinary image because its revolution happened peacefully, without weapons," Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi reportedly said.

Referring to the fighting in Libya, Yemen and Syria, he added: "The wind of freedom has blown through other countries ... but we will be the only ones to succeed in putting into place a democratic government."

Opposition parties, fearful the government will renege on its efforts to ring in democracy and keen for political stability, have demanded an earlier date.

However, Essebsi told reporters in Tunis that: “The most important thing is the transparency of the elections. There are parties who disagreed with this ... but our mission is to hold elections that are free and transparent. We must protect the good name of the revolution.”

Under Ben Ali's 23-year-reign, a single party known as the RCD, now officially dissolved, controlled the country and opposition parties were largely symbolic, according to the AP.

The vote will be for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution that would pave the way for legislative and presidential elections.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/110608/tunisia-elections-delayed-transparency-ben-ali-middle-east