Polls open in Tunisia parliamentary election

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A Tunisian woman shows her ink-stained finger as she leaves Kairouan primary school turned into a polling station after voting in the country's first post-revolution parliamentary election on October 26, 2014 in the Tunis suburb of Ben Arous. (Photo: AFP - Fethi Belaid)

Published Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tunisians have started to vote for a new parliament which is expected to be the first democratically-elected legislature in the North African country's history.

When polls opened at 7:00 am (06:00 GMT), dozens of voters were already queuing outside one polling station in Marseille Street in central Tunis, an AFP correspondent reported.

More than 5 million Tunisians are eligible to go to the polling stations across the country to select 217 members of the new parliament.

Around 80 political parties are vying in the elections, out of a total of 190 parties in Tunisia. Party candidates are distributed to 1,327 lists, running to grab 217 seats distributed to 33 constituencies, including six constituencies overseas.

The number of partisan and independent candidates hit over 13,000.

The voters have already started to flock to the country's 4,864 polling centers nationwide, including 330 polling centers outside Tunisia. The elections would be held under the proportional representation system.

Observers expect a heated race in the elections among Tunisia's political parties, but most of them agreed that the competition is to be limited to Islamist Ennahda Movement and secular Call of Tunisia.

Only four political parties managed to have lists in the 33 constituencies inside Tunisia, namely Ennahda Movement, the Congress for the Republic, the Free Patriotic Union and Call of Tunisia.

Around 22,000 election observers, meanwhile, are expected to monitor the vote. These observers include nearly 600 foreigners, according to Tunisia's election body.

Tunisians living outside the country have already started voting since Thursday. The Independent High Authority for Elections said on Saturday that 10,985 Tunisians had already cast ballots in northern France, 10,242 cast ballots in southern France, 3,805 in the US and Europe and 6,651 in other countries.

On the eve of the polls, Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa warned of possible jihadist attacks aimed at disrupting the country's first post-revolution parliamentary election.

"We know that this will be a target (for jihadist groups) because it is unique in the region. It brings hope," Jomaa told AFP during an inspection of security forces east of Tunis.

"They know that the success of (this election) is a threat to them, not only in Tunisia but throughout the region."

On Friday, Tunisian police killed six suspected militants in a raid on a house in the outskirts of the capital.

A policeman was also killed in an earlier firefight with the suspects.

The government has allocated $22.2 million for the elections and is deploying 80,000 police and army personnel to guard the electoral process across the country, according local media.

(Anadolu, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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