Almost 70 percent of registered voters in Tunisia turned out for an election today—the country's first since its former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in January. Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party (with a "commitment to democracy and women's rights") headed by ex-exile Rachid Ghannouchi, is expected to win, though it may be forced to form a coalition, while the secular Progressive Democratic Party will likely take second place. In Sidi Bouzid, the rural town where the self-immolation of fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi kicked off the weeks of protests that eventually ousted Ben Ali—and, arguably, the Egyptian and Libyan regimes—Tunisians crowded the polls:
Libyan news organization Freedom Group just posted this video of the moments directly after Libyan rebels captured former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It's the clearest video yet of Gaddafi's arrest, and unsettling to watch; as in previous videos, there's no direct evidence that the dictator was summarily executed (as has been speculated), but the footage of a bloody, seemingly terrified Gaddafi being shoved and hit in the head doesn't inspire faith in the restraint of his captors. (Michael Van Poppel of Breaking News, working off this Global Post video of the same scene, thinks that Gaddafi was "sodomized" by one of his captors, apparently with a rifle.)
A brave coalition of centrist senators defiantly took the stage today to save America, by asking for larger, more painful budget cuts to lower- and middle-class social programs in a horrible time of economic agony and uncertainty. Thirty-six of them, there were! Can you just feel the red, white and blue coursing through your veins?
On tonight's Report, Robin Wright (the journalist/author, not the Sean Penn ex-wife) stopped by for an interview with Stephen Colbert about her new book, Rock the Casbah, which argues that the recent Middle East uprisings prove the United States' post-9/11 policy of "gunboat diplomacy" was both misguided and ineffective. And in a rare instance of earnestness—mixed in with his requisite schtick, of course—Colbert repeatedly challenged Wright's arguments. Here's a video of the interview's more combative moments.
Embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh traveled to Saudi Arabia on Saturday following an attack on his compound, leaving Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in control of the government. According to a spokesman, Saleh is in Saudi Arabia for "simple check-ups," but "western diplomatic sources" tell CNN that the president is undergoing neurosurgery and had suffered "severe burns to his face and chest." It's unclear what Saleh's departure means for the ongoing protests and clashes between government forces and opposition groups, but opposition leaders say they will not allow Saleh to return to the country. The attack on Saleh's compound was originally blamed on a "rebel tribe"; the Yemeni government now believes it may have been Al Qaeda. [CNN; image via AP]
Hosni Mubarak, the deposed President of Egypt, will reportedly apologize — and "plead for amnesty" — in a televised statement. Apologize, you may be wondering, for what? Good question! "[F]or for any offense caused to the people," apparently. But, look, all of that nonspecific "offense" isn't really even his fault! See, he's also going to apologize "for any behavior which may have stemmed from false information passed on to him by his advisers." Advisers are notoriously untrustworthy!
Remember Erik Prince, the creepy former CEO of mercenary firm Blackwater (now called Xe), who fled the United States for the United Arab Emirates after selling his company? What's that zany dude up to now? Oh, just forming a mercenary army at the behest of the United Arab Emirates' autocratic crown prince, with the tacit approval of the U.S. government.