In light of the forthcoming elections in Tunisia, Foreign Minister Westerwelle is today (21 October) visiting the voting station at the Tunisian Embassy in Berlin. He issued the following statement prior to his visit:
“Nine months ago, Tunisia dared, under its own steam and through great sacrifice, to start down the road towards democracy, the first country in North Africa to do so.
Today, Tunisia is the first country in the region to undertake free elections.
This is simultaneously a milestone in Tunisia’s history and a litmus test for its fledgling democracy. If this election is free and fair, it will make Tunisia an example once again for the rest of the region.
I call on all Tunisians living in Germany to use their vote, which they have the opportunity to do even though they are here.
After the election, as before, we will continue to do what we can to support the reform process as a partner of the new Tunisia, in order that the democratic transition be rendered irreversible.
History teaches that in the long run oppression cannot endure. There is hope, therefore, that the transition to democracy may also succeed elsewhere in the region where people are demanding their legitimate rights. I am thinking particularly of Syria – where an end to the violent repression and a political fresh start are long overdue.”
For the first time since it gained independence, Tunisia is going to the polls on Sunday (23 October) to elect a Constituent Assembly. Over the following year, the Assembly will write a new constitution and prepare parliamentary as well as presidential elections.
There are around 80,000 Tunisians in Germany who are eligible to vote in the Tunisian elections, which they can do between 20 and 22 October. In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the relevant Länder, the Federal Foreign Office has authorized voting stations to be established in 15 German cities.
The German Government is supporting democratization in Tunisia as part of what has become known as its transformation partnership for North Africa. It has made an additional 34 million euro available for 2011 and is planning a further 100 million euro for 2012-2013.
The Federal Foreign Office has launched a host of projects to further democratization since the democratic revolution started in Tunisia. They focus variously on, for instance, advising non-governmental organizations and promoting qualified and independent election reporting.