Many say with relief that the Islamist movements are not as strong as they were in the late 1980s and 1990s, when Ben Ali began a widespread crackdown. The young people who led this month's uprising are too conscientious to replace one dictatorship with another, they say. And the older generations that gave the revolution against Ben Ali their blessing did so in the name of freedom, not faith.
"We have those who make their prayers, but you don't have to make your prayers," says Saida bin Ayad, a 42-year-old homemaker in Cite Solidarite. "We want all types. We want freedom, not an Islamic country."
Elections will decide how much strength the Islamists have. But unlike elections in other Arab countries, the upcoming vote won't position a secular ruling party against a token opposition or Islamists. A wide variety of parties will compete, and Islamists will have no particular advantage.
"In completely fair, credible and transparent elections, would an Islamist candidate get some parliamentary seats?" says a Western diplomat in Tunis, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. "If he was charismatic and well-connected to the community, probably. I would argue that's a healthy thing."