A supporter of the Nida Tounes secular party movement waves a Tunisian flag in Tunis, October 21, 2014.
Anis Mili / Courtesy Reuters

Nearly four years ago, Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled for his life when the first of the Arab Spring uprisings forced him from power. Most of his ministers were close on his heels, scurrying to save themselves in exile. Many of those who did not flee went into hiding or jail.

Several months later, Tunisia held its first competitive multi-party elections. In that vote, however, Tunisians did not have complete freedom of choice; all the top-level figures associated with Ben Ali’s toppled regime were banned from running—a short-term measure that was designed to protect the fragile new democracy from slipping back toward dictatorship.

On October 26, Tunisians will finally have a real and unrestricted choice at the polls. Several of the remnants of the Ben Ali system—former officials who were not imprisoned and have now come out of hiding—are on the ballot in the

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  • BRIAN KLAAS is a Clarendon Scholar and researcher at the University of Oxford focusing on democratic transitions and political exclusion in elections. MARCEL DIRSUS is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kiel focusing on political purges in democratic transitions.
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