Election Day in Tunisia

Words really can’t express how happy I feel for Tunisia and her people today. It has been ten eventful months since Ben Ali left the country, and most of that time I spent in Tunisia, breathing the heady air of new democracy and marvelling at events that seem almost miraculous, and continue to reverberate around the world.

Today brought to first fruition the promise of the Tunisian people’s revolutionary dream. The country voted today to elect a 217-member assembly, which has as its primary purpose drafting a new constitution. The body will also choose a new interim government and set dates for parliamentary and presidential elections, setting Tunisia firmly on the path toward a stable democratic future.

I am in awe of the Tunisian people for accomplishing this, and so honored to have spent the months after the revolution as a guest in their beautiful country. I watched them day after day, week after week, as they kept close tabs on their slippery interim government, continuing to protest and demand change as necessary, often facing batons and bullets but never backing down.

Today their patience, determination and heroism were vindicated as they participated in what for most was the first real election they had ever experienced. Exceeding even wildly optimistic expectations, voter turnout reportedly came in at over 90%. The nearly universal blue-inked fingers today were a badge of honor, a tangible symbol of the courage and solidarity that have brought Tunisia to this historic moment.

Amid the bloody carnage of Qaddafi’s demise, Libya’s future continues to be uncertain. Egypt’s military power base remains difficult to dislodge. Syria’s peaceful revolutionaries press on despite horrifying casualties and crippling sanctions. But Tunisia shines steadfastly as a beacon of hope and triumph for a region and world that desperately needs to believe that ideals are worth something, and freedom and justice are not hazy pipe dreams, but attainable goals.

May they continue to achieve success in their noble endeavor, and may the new dawn they have ushered in spread its rays far and wide until the light of hope and freedom shines with equal brightness on the whole Middle East and all the world.