Tunisian Artists Lead Surprisingly Professional Get-Out-The-Vote Effort

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One of the most commonly made comments about the Tunisian popular, democratic revolution that began in late December, quickly sparking similar movements in nearly every other Arab country, is that Tunisia was ready. Their growing, educated middle class was ready; their activists, benefiting from the country's close ties to Europe, were ready; even their labor unions and local social organizations were ready. And now, based on the impressive, compelling, and amazingly polished get-out-the-vote campaign they're leading, it appears that Tunisia's artists and GOTV organizers were ready, too.

Tunisian airwaves and (more importantly) social media networks are being flooded with videos encouraging Tunisians to use their new and hard-won right to democratic participation. Some of these would put the Obama campaign to shame. With the country's big election on Sunday, the more people that participate, the better this new Arab democracy will reflect popular will and the greater legitimacy and support it will have.

My favorite ad comes from a group calling itself "Engagement Citoyen," which means citizen engagement. There's very little talk in the video, so anyone can understand its message. It begins with a giant poster of deposed President Zine el-Abidine ben Ali mysteriously appearing in downtown Tunis. Disturbed citizens seem uncertain how to respond, but once of them enough gather at the poster's base someone thinks to simply pull it down; a narrator then asks viewers to vote on Sunday, warning that dictators can come back. It's simple, powerful, affective, and looks more professional than an awful lot of the campaign ads you see in the U.S.


Tunisia's Instance Supérieure Indépendante pour les Elections, the independent body that supervises the election, is putting out a series of ads calling on Tunisians of all walks of life and from all corners of the globe (one in nine Tunisians lives abroad) to be sure and vote in Sunday's election. It's full of campaign ad cliches, but that's kind of amazing when you consider that Tunisian democracy is younger than just this most recent Republican presidential campaign.


And then, of course, no democratic election is complete without the soaring, inspirational sing-along, complete with footage of Tunisian pop stars hanging out in the studio together. In the Arab tradition, the metaphors are a bit more nuanced and the key a bit more minor, but otherwise it's not so different in spirit and form from, for example, Will-I-Am's "Yes We Can" video. There's even a rap break!


You can watch more of the videos here.

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Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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