September 21, 2011 / 5:20 PM / in 6 years

EU observer says optimistic about Tunisia vote

TUNIS (Reuters) - The head of the European Union mission to observe Tunisia’s election next month said on Wednesday he was optimistic about the first test of the country’s democracy since it ousted its leader in a revolution.

Tunisians electrified the Arab world in January when popular protests toppled autocratic president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The country will vote on October 23 to choose an assembly which will draw up a new constitution.

An EU mission consisting of 150 observers -- the largest international mission that will monitor the elections -- will soon start deploying to different parts of the country in preparation for the vote.

“There are many things that prompt us to be optimistic,” Michael Gahler, a member of the European parliament and head of the mission, told reporters.

“Compared to my experience earlier in Pakistan in 2008 (when a parliamentary election was held), the internal security situation in Tunisia does not raise concern ... The situation is better here,” he said.

In a statement released in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc would give Tunisia’s new authorities their full support as they try to build democratic institutions.

“These elections represent an historical moment in the transition process of Tunisia towards democracy. For the first time, Tunisian citizens will have the opportunity to freely choose their representatives,” she said.

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