On the campaign trail, a Tunisian in Germany pushes for change at home | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 23.10.2011
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On the campaign trail, a Tunisian in Germany pushes for change at home

On Sunday, Tunisians head to polling booths to elect an assembly given the historic task of drafting a post-revolution constitution. Tunisians abroad may also stand, with a 24-year-old student from Bonn in the running.

Amal Nasr on a Bonn street

Nasr is counting on the votes of Tunisians in Germany

Tunisia is slowly on the recovery trail after a revolution earlier this year led to the downfall of its dictatorial leader and sparked similar revolts around the Arab world.

On Sunday, the country will head to the polls to elect an assembly to decide on a new constitution - and Tunisians the world over will partake in the process, with delegations from countries around Europe invited to get involved.

In Germany, home to a large Tunisian expatriate population, one delegate will be chosen from 15 candidates who have put themselves up for election to the constitutional assembly. The only woman among them is Amal Nasr, a 24-year-old art history student who lives in the western city of Bonn.

"There are 80,000 Tunisians who live here in Germany and they can all vote for me," Amal says while standing in one of Bonn's busiest shopping areas. The sun is shining today, and Amal's outlook is equally full of promise.

Bonn is home to a significant Tunisian population and the city still hosts the Tunisian Consulate General from back when it was the capital of West Germany. The major problem Amal faces, however, is identifying Tunisians on the streets and motivating them to play a part in the future of their homeland.

Coalition for democracy

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia and was sentenced to more than 30 years in absentia

Amal and her colleagues are running under the flag of a Tunisian political group called the Democratic Modernist Pole (PDM) - an alliance of parties vying for influence in post-revolution Tunisia.

"We are social democrats and we are a grouping on the left," she says. "There are many parties that exist within this spectrum, and it's quite representative of Tunisia at the moment. There are 114 parties in all and so it's normal for many of them to resemble one another."

The PDM was set up to challenge Islamist groups and former loyalists of ousted leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for 23 years before fleeing at the start of this year amid a nationwide revolt.

The center-left coalition wants a Tunisia with Islam as the religion, but with religious freedom and a separation of faith and politics. The coalition has registered itself for Sunday's election, when Tunisians will select the more than 200 people who will draft a new constitution for the country.

The Democratic Modernists are only winning around 2 percent in the opinion polls back home, but Amal says opinion polls in her country aren't as reliable as those in Europe.

"You have to be careful with opinion polls, which unfortunately are not neutral in Tunisia, where they're often prepared to order, so to speak. A party actually orders an opinion poll," she says.

Amal Nasr on a Bonn street

Nasr set her stall in the middle of a Bonn pedestrian zone

Democratic alliance

The moderate Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) Party is expected to take the biggest block of votes in the Muslim majority country, and it's also putting up a candidate in Germany.

It's projected to get around 25 percent of the vote, but Amal points out that this still isn't a majority. She says Tunisia needs a coalition of democratic forces to enshrine equality in the country's new constitution.

"I just hope that everyone respects the freedoms of others. If a woman wants to wear a headscarf then that's her decision. If not, then that's also her decision," she says.

Of all the Arab countries to have recently undergone revolutions, Tunisia is perhaps best placed to achieve a peaceful outcome sooner rather than later, says Amal.

"In other countries it's much more complicated. There are, for example, the Berbers in Algeria and Morocco, there are the Copts in Egypt, while in Libya the tribes still play a big role," she says.

Nearing the end of her studies at the University of Bonn, Amal says she wants to eventually return to Tunisia to help the work of young artists - or, perhaps, even take part in the historic act of writing Tunisia's new constitution.

"You can't find democracy in a cereal packet. It's a learning process. I just hope we'll prove to be good students."

Author: Michael Gessat / dfm
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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