Tunisia parties announce candidates for presidential elections

Tunisia parties announce candidates for presidential elections
Tunisia’s two largest political parties, the secular Nedaa Tounes and the Islamist Ennahda have announced their candidates for presidential elections which will be held in September.
3 min read
07 August, 2019
Defence Minister Abdel Karim Zbidi, of Nedaa Tounes, submits his candidacy for the elections [Getty]
Tunisia's maiin political parties have revealed their candidates for upcoming presidential elections, which will be held on 15 September, after they were brought forward following the death in office of President Baji Caid Essebsi at the age of 92, last month.

More than 30 candidates have announced their intention to run in the elections but sources from Tunisia's Independent Election Authority told The New Arab that only eight of the requests for candidacy it had received were being considered seriously.

The candidates include a belly dancer and the Arab world’s first openly gay presidential candidate, Mounir Baatour.

Essebsi's secularist Nedaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia) party has backed the candidacy of current Defence Minister Abdel Karim Zbidi.

Zbidi served in several ministerial posts both before and after the Tunisian revolution of 2010-2011. He held the position of defence minister between 2011 and 2013 and was reappointed to the position in 2017 by Essebsi.

He was a close ally of the late president and seen with Essebsi was being treated at a military hospital.

Running against Zbidi is current Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who is from the Tahya Tounes ("Long Live Tunisia") party.

Tahya Tounes is effectively a breakaway faction of Nedaa Tounes, formed as a result of a conflict between Chahed and Essebsi’s influential son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi.

The Islamist Ennahda Party announced on Saturday that Abdel Fattah Mourou, the current deputy speaker of the Tunisian parliament, will be its candidate.

Mourou, who is 71, has been active in Islamist politics since 1968. He was imprisoned more than once under the rule of former presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine el-Abidine ben Ali for his political activity.

He has previously stated his belief in the separation of political work from religious preaching.

Mourou will be the first candidate that the Ennahda party has put forward for the presidency since the 2011 revolution.

His appointment has caused some controversy in Ennahda, with one leading party official, Rafiq Abdul Salam, saying that participation in the elections was "a wrong decision not in line with the circumstances of the time".

Two prime ministers from Ennahda led Tunisian governments between 2011 and 2014.

However, the party was pressured by Tunisia's parliament to give up power to a caretaker government in 2014 following the assassination of two opposition politicians. Nedaa Tounes won parliamentary and presidential elections later that year.

Also participating in the elections is Moncef Marzouki, who previously served as president of the country, with the support of Ennahda, from 2011 to 2014.

He will be contesting the election in the name of a recently formed political alliance called "The Other Tunisia".

Marzouki, who spent many years as a human rights and democracy advocate, was a vocal opponent of the authoritarian government of President Zine el-Abidine ben Ali, criticising its 1991 crackdown on Ennahda and other opposition groups.

Tunisia is considered to be one of the success stories of the Arab Spring. Following the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine ben Ali in 2011, free elections have been held regularly and political parties have entered into power-sharing agreements that have kept Tunisia stable compared to the other Arab Spring countries.