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Expat Tunisians cast votes

PARIS: Tunisians abroad thronged to vote yesterday in the first post-Arab Spring free election, three days before their compatriots at home go to the polls to turn the page on 23 years of autocratic rule.

Like many who voted yesterday, historic opposition figure Kamel Jendoubi, who heads the overall election organising body ISIE, was tearful as he voted at a consulate in Paris.

"I dreamt of this day, I couldn't imagine but now I'm living it!" he said. "If we came here a few months ago, a few years ago, we'd simply be thrown out, it wasn't our house."

Expat Tunisians choose 18 of the 217 members of the constituent assembly, voting until tomorrow, in six "constituencies": two in France, one in Italy, one in Germany, one in North America and one for other Arab nations.

Tunisians living in former colonial ruler France will elect 10 of these 18 seats, in an assembly that will be tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Almost a million Tunisians live abroad, with up to 500,000 in France alone.

Dozens of Tunisians braved the rain in Rome to vote in a festive atmosphere. Around 60,000 Tunisians were eligible to vote in Germany.

Votes cast abroad will be counted tomorrow and the results announced after voting ends in Tunisia on Sunday.



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