In Tunis

Ursula and I arrived in Tunis today, and the city is abuzz with electoral excitement. On Sunday, Tunisian will hold the first election of the Arab Spring, to appoint a constituent assembly that should not only write the first constitution, but effectively be parliament for a year. I won't give my impressions now, except to say that after several depressing weeks in Egypt this is a breath of fresh air. It makes you wish Egypt had followed the same transition model. One thing that strikes me is that although there are plenty of malcontents — apparently especially in the inner region that started the uprising last December — in Tunis I sensed real optimism.

It's going to be a little messy, for sure. I am now watching the bizarre spectacle on state TV of candidates being given three-minute video spots to explain their platform. This means for for about five hours a day at peak evening viewing time, TV is dominated by little-known personalities from the some 60 of 110 political parties that are participating (in this country of some 10 million.)

The pictures above are from a show at an art gallery, with young artists doing their own provocative versions of get-out-the-vote posters.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.