Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 10/21/2011

Tunisia gears up for elections Sunday on no-longer-censored YouTube

After being blocked for years in Tunisia, YouTube will play a pivotal role in this Sunday’s elections, as Tunisians choose a council to write a new constitution for the country.

A Tunisian woman walks past a wall covered with posters of political candidates in Tunis on Thursday. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Politicians from more than 40 parties have already answered hundreds of voter-submitted questions on the Tunisia Talks YouTube channel, and the Tunisian Electoral Committee has encouraged people, on its own channel, ISIETN, to take part in the vote.

The efforts are a far cry from the Tunisia that existed under President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted by a popular revolt in January. Under Ben Ali, corruption and the repression of civil rights were the norm.

In the Economist’s 2008 Democracy Index , Tunisia was classified as an authoritarian regime, ranking 141 out of 167 countries studied.

(Image via Google)
Since 2007, when Tunisians would try to call up YouTube from within the country, the message at left would appear. No explanation was given as to why the site was not accessible.

The site was unblocked on Jan. 13 this year by the president as one of several efforts to stay in office.

Now, 10 months after Ben Ali gave up power, the election promises to be Tunisia’s first taste of democracy.

More than 10,000 candidates from more than 80 parties are participating. For the first the time, the 217-seat assembly will include representatives from the country’s sizable expatriate population, and 18 seats are set aside for Tunisians living abroad.

The Associated Press reports that the stakes “couldn’t be higher” because the election in Tunisia is widely seen as “a litmus test” for growing democracy in the Arab world.

Bennaceur, a Tunisian expat running for the “North France” district seat, says the council candidates are all cognizant of how much this election means for other Arab countries.

“There’s a feeling that if we Tunisians can’t do it, nobody can,” he said.

Below, watch a video a voter submitted to the now free YouTube with his questions for candidates:

In the following video, the Tunisian Electoral Committee encourages all citizens over 18 years of age to get out and vote by registering in their municipal offices, or if abroad, to register at their embassies.

In this English-language translated video, Libyans in Tunisia celebrate another boost to democracy yesterday — Moammar Gaddafi’s death:

By  |  11:19 AM ET, 10/21/2011

Tags:  World, Tunisia, elections, YouTube

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