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Voters unprecedentedly queue to ballot for post-Ben Ali Tunisia


09:00, October 24, 2011

TUNIS, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- In a calm and cool Sunday morning, millions of Tunisians queued outside 6,734 voting stations throughout the northmost country of Africa, waiting to cast their vote with their own will for the first time since the toppling of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali early this year.

"I got up at 5 a.m. and arrived at the station one hour later, I am very proud of being the first Tunisian to cast my vote," said Dr. Imed Dababi, with excitement in his eyes.

"After more than 40 years, the Tunisian people finally have the freedom to choose their own representatives," said Dababi, who had never voted in the Ben Ali era.

An unprecedented voter turnout marked the launch of the elections with long queues already formed prior to the opening of polling stations at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT). Thousands of people were lined up in the country's polling stations waiting for their turn to cast their ballots.

In a poll station of Mutuelle Ville near downtown Tunis, capital city of Tunisia, hundreds of voters stood in a queue of more than 100 meters at 6:30 a.m..

Tunisian voters both at home and abroad are supposed to elect 217 representatives to the National Constituent Assembly, among whom 199 are in Tunisia and 18 representing Tunisian expatriates in Europe and North America.

Then, the 217-member body will rewrite the constitution and chart the country's transition after the toppling of its veteran leader, paving the way for legislative and presidential elections in 12 month's time.

Among the voters waiting for ballot, there are Muslims and Christians, youths and elders, men and women.

"We haven't seen such kind of queues for a long time. After so many chaos and unrest, Tunisian people finally can vote with freedom," said Beehir Tovohei, one in the queue, "All Tunisians are equal today, it's a historical moment for all of us."

Mohammed Mard, a ninety-year-old doctor, have balloted many times in his life. "In the time of Ben Ali, there would be someone giving me the voting card and telling me who I should vote," said Mard, who stood out among the voters.

"Now I come into my 90s, and finally get the right to choose by myself," Mard said, with joy on his heavily wrinkled face. "I got up very early in the morning because I was too excited."

On Sunday, around 7.3 million eligible voters will choose their representatives among 77 political parties, two coalitions and hundreds of independent lists. Some 11,000 candidates are vying for a seat in the constituent assembly.

"Tunisians need to be united," the veteran underlined, saying " separation is no good for our country. We can't stand turbulence any more."

For a nation that is freshly coming out of unrest, it requires time to achieve peace and order, said Anis Rabhi, holding her voting card joyfully and hopefully. "We still have a long way to go, but with this election, we have made the first step."


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