Ineffective outreach strategies left partisans poised to start this week locked in a bitter and messy fight to mobilize voters to take action. Over the weekend, they focused their attention on a two stage proposal. Their goal was to make it more attractive to voters. By Monday afternoon, they thought they were close, the President even offered a televised eappeal on Monday to reach out to the recalcitrant. But by Tuesday, it was unclear whether they could meet the August 2 deadline, with a potential catastrophic impact on all parties for the upcoming elections.
The August 2 deadline is not the U.S. debt ceiling, nor is the President Obama, but the impact could be as far reaching as a financial collapse. While the debt ceiling debate in the U.S. is all important in the American news cycle this week, Tunisians face the same August 2 deadline to legitimize their revolution. In exactly 8 days voter registration closes for Tunisian voters to vote in their first free and fair elections.
Despite a massive publicity campaign, voter registration rates have come in as a trickle, rather than a flood. As of this morning, less than 900,000 Tunisians were registered, out of an estimated 7 million eligible voters.
Despite registration booths staying open over the entire holiday weekend and a call over the weekend for Tunisian bloggers to mobilize their followers, so far less than 15 percent of voters have registered.
The impact of a weak voter registration could have far reaching implications for the political transition in Tunisia, not only potentially deligitimizing the elections, but also disenfranchizing scores of potential voters come October 23 when Tunisians go to the polls.
Over the next 8 days I will be following this story closely.
And for all my Tunisian friends: remember, it’s not just about registering yourself, take your family, friends, and everyone you know to the municipal polling station.
[Edit: After I posted this, I noticed Kacem4Change’s post on the Tunisian blogging effort. It’s a good short summary of the outreach efforts by engaged Tunisians, keeping the revolution alive.