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Prelate optimistic about Tunisian democracy

Catholic World News - October 24, 2011

Tunisia’s sole bishop has expressed optimism about the nation’s first free elections since it became independent from France in 1956. The nation was ruled by two strongmen -- Habib Bourguiba and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali -- for most of its history before the latter was overthrown in an early 2011 uprising.

“The Tunisian parties are 120, of which 110 have presented themselves in the elections,” said Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham of Tunis. “This certainly is likely to cause confusion among voters, accentuated by the fact that it is the first time that the Tunisians vote in elections which are truly free. They are not accustomed to the election campaign, conducted by the parties, promising more or less the same thing. There is enthusiasm but also uncertainty.”

“Tunisia has started its path to democracy,” he added. “It will be a model of democracy made by Tunisians. There are no standard models of democracy valid for all countries. Each creates its own model, adapting it to their social and cultural conditions. I am optimistic about the future of the country.”

90% of voters turned out for the October 23 elections; results are expected on October 25.

Only 21,000 of the nation’s 10.3 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics.

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