Registration for the Constituent Assembly elections on October 23rd began Thursday, September 1st and is set to close on Wednesday, the 7th of September. This week-long stage leading up to the actual campaigning for election, set to begin on October 1st, has revealed some surprises. The lists of candidates of various parties given to the press reveal organization in some parties, disorder in others.
As of today, September 5th, few parties have compiled complete lists of candidates. Leading with candidate lists in 23 governorates throughout Tunisia is the main Islamist party, Ennahda. No other party matches this total.
Abdelfattah Morou, an ex-member of Ennahda who has seemingly split with his party, has compiled an alliance of lists in 20 districts.
The Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT) is also well represented. They have submitted 14 lists of candidates for seats on the Constituent Assembly, mostly in coastal regions.
Another party that has submitted names of candidates for their list is the Party of Culture and Work (PCT), a new party on the left of the political spectrum. They have submitted 9 lists of candidates for the upcoming election.
The Reform and Development Party, a new center-left party, has submitted 8 lists.
The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), however, is thought to be facing some internal problems. Though they are considered a major player in the Tunisian political scene, they have published only 8 lists. The PDP office in Kairouan is known to be facing some problems after releasing an official statement on September 2nd that they froze their membership. The PDP has not yet officially discussed this pressing issue.
“Available Election Lists Favor Ennahda and Point to PDP in Crisis,” Tunisia Live, 5 September, 2011.
This is interesting: though the PCOT is probably less popular than the PDP and a number of larger center left parties. It would appear that the PCOT has a strong organizational culture, typical of the communist parties in the Arab world (in his The Communist Movement in the Arab World (2005), Tareq Ismael argues that superior organizational discipline is one of the most important features and legacies of the Arab communists). This is a party that has been active in hiding for nearly thirty years. One is not surprised to find their lists concentrated on the coast as opposed to the interior. It is surprising to see the PDP and similar parties without so wide a spread. It is also notable that the organized parties appear to be en-Nahdah and mostly leftist or center-left parties. There seems to be a demand for politics that recognizes and respects Arab-Islamic identity and/or makes use of populist economics. On the left there is a lot of rhetoric against the IMF/World Bank and the liberal economics. One sees a similar trend in Egypt emerging; the Ben Ali and Mubarak political and economic models helped produce the uprisings. Many seem eager to move off them; international and internal elite pressure will likely moderate these tendencies. This is already very evident in Egypt as far as the SCAF and Gulf states’ behavior can be indicators.