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Tunisia delays elections until October

Associated Press / June 9, 2011

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TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia will hold an election Oct. 23, not in July as planned, because conditions are not yet right for the first vote since the ouster of the country’s autocratic president, the prime minister announced yesterday.

Tunisia’s fledgling experiment with democracy is being closely watched around the world because the popular uprising in the North African country sparked pro-democracy revolts around the Middle East.

The success or failure of elections in Tunisia would send a strong signal to other nations in the region.

“The world is watching us. Tunisia today has an extraordinary image because its revolution happened peacefully, without weapons,’’ Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi said after announcing the new election date.

“The wind of freedom has blown through other countries . but we will be the only ones to succeed in putting into place a democratic government,’’ he added, implicitly referring to the fighting in Libya, Yemen, and Syria.

The elections had been planned for July 24, but Tunisia’s electoral commission proposed last month they be postponed, saying much more needed to be done to organize the vote.

Those tasks include putting 3 million Tunisians into the electoral database and ensuring hundreds of thousands of others get valid identity cards.

Those in favor of the July date had said it was needed to bring political stability to a country now experiencing simmering tensions and occasional deadly eruptions of violence.

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