A glance at the main parties competing in Tunisia's elections for a constitutional assembly. Though there are 117 parties registered and around 80 actually participating only a handful are expected to win any seats.
ENNAHDA: Founded in the 1970s, the Hizb Ennahda or Renaissance Party, was brutally suppressed by the country's first president, Habib Bourguiba, and then by his successor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, with thousands of activists jailed. With the fall of Ben Ali, however, it managed to reconstitute itself as the best organized party in the country. It espouses a moderate form of Islam that it says does not clash with the country's progressive traditions, such as women's rights. The party has polled at least a fifth of the electorate and is expected to take the largest chunk of seats in the assembly. It is pushing for a parliamentary system.
PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Founded in 1983 as the Progressive Socialist Rally, the PDP was one of the few opposition parties allowed to operate under the previous regime and it polls the largest degree of support in the country after Ennahda. Led by Maya Jribi, the first female party head in the country, the center-left PDP has presented itself as the defender of Tunisia's progressive traditions and the only one that can beat Ennahda. It garnered around 10 percent support in polls before elections.
ETTAKATOL: The Democratic Forum for Labor and Freedoms led by Mustapha Ben Jaafar, a doctor, is another center-left party with a strong following in the country, though it does not get along with the PDP. Known as a party of intellectuals, it has also had success attract youth volunteers to its ranks. Founded in 1994, it was part of the legal opposition under Ben Ali and has polled around 10 percent support.
MODERNIST DEMOCRATIC AXIS: A coalition of leftist parties and independent candidates, including Ettajdid, the old communist party, is more left wing than the PDP or Ettakatol and pushed for more state intervention in the economy and social justice. The group has also made opposition to Ennahda a centerpiece of its campaign. Unlike the other parties, the alliance, known by its French initials PDM, has put women at the head of half of its 33 electoral lists, rather than just two or three.
CONGRESS FOR THE REPUBLIC: Founded in 2001 by renowned human rights activists Moncef Marzouki, the party was almost immediately banned by Ben Ali and its founder sent into exile. The party's focus is on creating a nation where human rights are respected and there is a strong separation of powers. Respect for Marzouki could well gain him votes around the country and the CPR is one of the few parties that has expressed a willingness to form a coalition with Ennahda.
Among the dozens of other parties and hundreds of independents are also former members of Ben Ali's ruling party, especially the Mubadara (initiative) and Watan (nation) parties that might be able to capitalize on residual patronage networks of the old regime.
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