Tunisia’s Islamicists emerge before democratic polls | world | Hindustan Times
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Tunisia’s Islamicists emerge before democratic polls

world Updated: Oct 12, 2011 00:57 IST

Tunisia's Communist Workers' party has rebranded itself.

Gone is the reference to communism. The party has been renamed Revolutionary Alternative, and, perhaps more surprising, a woman with a Muslim headscarf has been added to its list of candidates in the town of Kasserine.

Ahead of the first democratic election on Oct. 23, even the communists are keen to show that they count observant Muslims among their candidates.

The reasoning is simple. Opinion polls show that the moderately Islamist Nahda party is likely to lead the field in the vote for a constituent assembly that will draft a democratic constitution.

The election will be the first in the political transitions under way in West Asia and north Africa.

Campaign events organised by Nahda begin with a prayer and have a buzz lacking at other parties' rallies.

Its rapid re-emergence has alarmed secular sections of society and sent liberal parties scrambling for ways to compete with the Islamist message in an effort to win over elusive younger voters. Its influence is also apparent in the pledge from many parties to "defend Tunisia's Arab and Islamic identity".

Despite the apparent popularity of Nahda, however, polls suggest that up to 44% of the electorate remains undecided. This is a possible reflection of the frustrations of Tunisians at the lack of improvement in their daily lives. Many people say they are disenchanted with political parties. This could benefit the 587 independent candidates seeking election to the 217-seat assembly.

(In Exclusive Partnership with The Washington Post. For additional content, visit www.washingtonpost.com )