The race to Carthage's presidential palace

The race to Carthage's presidential palace
Meet the front-runners competing for Tunisia's top job.
3 min read
01 November, 2014
Tunisians will return to polls on November 23 [AFP]

Tunisia's presidential elections will see 27 candidates all vying for the country's top job on November 23. Among the front-runners are the incumbent president, officials who served under the former dictator Ben Ali, a football club owner - and just one woman.

No fewer than 70 people originally filed applications to the Supreme Electoral Commission. However, 41 applications were rejected, with SEC officials saying they did not comply with the stringent electoral conditions. Two candidates have withdrawn since first applying.


Eleven candidates are running on behalf of political parties and 16 as independents.  


The contenders include:


Moncef Marzouki

Moncef Marzouki [Getty]


Marzouki was elected by the Constitutional Assembly as Tunisia's interim president in 2011.


He is a long standing human rights activist and physician who was arrested several times in the 1990s for his oppositon to Ben Ali.


When his Congress for the Republic party was banned in 2002, he moved to Paris and continued to run the organisation in exile until the revolution erupted in 2011.


Marzouki has made allies of the Islamist Ennahda party and is seen by many here as having prevented the country being split between secular and Islamist forces.


However, his critics claim that he has sacrificed his principles.


Marzouki’s Congress for the Republic party won only four seats in last month’s general elections.   


Beji Cadi Essebsi


Beji Cadi Essebsi [Getty]

Essebsi leads the main secular party, Nidaa Tounes, which won the October 26 General election.

At 87, he is the oldest candidate for the big chair.


He was a minister under Habib Bourgiba, perceived as the father of Tunisian independence, and briefly headed parliament under Ben Ali.


The prime minister immediately after the revolution, Essebsi organised the first free election in Tunisian history in October 2011, won by Ennahdha.


Slim Riahi


SlimRiahi [Getty]

An entrepreneur who leads the Free Patriotic Union (UPL), Slim Riahi owns Club Africain, one of the two major football teams in Tunis.


Running a populist campaign, UPL came third in the parliamentary election, winning 17 seats.


The origins of his fortune remain unclear, but he was active in the oil, aviation and real estate industries when living in Libya, and his centrist party has run into controversy over a lack of transparency in its financial reporting.


Kalthoum Kannou

Kalthoum Kannou [Getty]


A magistrate and the only female presidential candidate, Kannou is a champion of judicial independence.


She was also an vocal opponent of Ben Ali’s regime.

After the dictator was toppled in January 2011, she briefly headed the Association of Tunisian Judges - one of the country’s largest civil society organisations.

She is running as an independent candidate.

Hamma Hammami

Hamma Hammami [Getty]

A leftist figurehead and fierce Ben Ali critic who chose to stay in Tunisia under the dictator's regime rather than go into exile. He was jailed numrous times under the former regime, and his lawyer wife, Radhia Nasraoui, is a prominent anti-torture activist.

Hamami is the spokesperson for the Tunisian Workers' Party and became the leader of the Popular Front party - a coalition of leftist groups - after the assasination its leader, Chokri Belaid.

His party won 12 seats on October 26.


Kamel Morjane


Kamel Morjane [Getty]

Ben Ali’s last foreign minister and one of six ousted regime officials standing as a candidate.

After the revolution, he apologised for serving under Ben Ali and founded his own party, Al-Moubadara ["The Initiative"], which claims to follow the Bourguiba line.


Al-Moubadara won three parliamentary seats in last month’s elections.