Tunisians have started voting in the first municipal elections since the 2011 revolution that led to regime change in the North African country.
Voting runs from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm local time (0700 -1700 GMT) on Sunday; and the results are expected in the coming days.
More than 57,000 candidates, almost half of them women and young people, are running for office in 350 municipalities.
“This Sunday will not be like other days. For the first time, the Tunisian people are called to participate in municipal elections, something that seems simple but is very important,” President Caid Essebsi said on Saturday.
The president has called for a “massive turnout,” but observers expect a low attendance rate.
Tunisia’s two political heavyweights — the religious Ennahda movement and the secular Nidaa Tounes Party — are predicted to come out on top in nearly every district.
Some 60,000 police and military personnel have been mobilized to provide security during the polls, while Tunisia remains under a state of emergency — imposed in 2015 after a string of deadly militant attacks.
Tunisians have voted in parliamentary and presidential elections since the ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the 2011 revolution, but municipal polls had been delayed four times due to logistic, administrative, and political deadlocks.
The revolution came about as the snowball effect of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old street vendor who sought to protest economic hardship.
Seven years after the ouster of Ben Ali sparked hope across the country, Tunisians say they are still struggling with corruption and poverty.
“These municipal elections won’t change anything for us. We will always be on the same cart without wheels or a horse,” 34-year-old Hilma, a housewife, told AFP.
The municipal elections enshrined in the new constitution were one of the first demands of the revolutionaries as a tangible step of decentralization since the end of Ben Ali’s rule. The polls will be followed by legislative and presidential votes in 2019.