Openly gay lawyer among hopefuls rejected ahead of Tunisian presidential elections

Openly gay lawyer among hopefuls rejected ahead of Tunisian presidential elections
Tunisia's electoral commission axed three quarters of hopefuls seeking to run in September presidential elections - including the country's first openly gay candidate.
2 min read
15 August, 2019
Supporters wave Tunisian flags as they await Tunisia PM applying for his presidential candidacy [NurPhoto/Getty]

Tunisia's electoral commission has rejected nearly three quarters of hopefuls for next month's presidential election, accepting just two women as candidates, it said Wednesday.

Among 71 would-be candidates rejected was Mounir Baatour - an openly gay lawyer whose bid was denounced by 18 associations campaigning for LGBT rights who say he does not represent them.

The electoral commission said he was barred because he failed to gather the required 10,000 signatures.

The poll was brought forward from November following the July death of president Beji Caid Essebsi, elected in the wake of the 2011 revolt that overthrew former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But one of the women given the green light to bid for the job is Abir Moussi, who heads a group formed from the remnants of Ben Ali's ruling party.

Among the 26 candidates approved for the race were Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and a key opponent, media magnate Nabil Karoui - who was recently charged with money laundering. 

In-depth: How post-Essebsi elections could cause further fragmentation for Tunisia's fragile democracy

The Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party's candidate Abdelfattah Mourou was also approved.

Ennahdha won the first polls held after the 2011 uprising which ousted autocratic president Ben Ali, and is currently the largest party in parliament.

Among the candidates was also Tunisian belly dancer -singer Nermine Sfar who said in online statements on Tuesday that she is gathering signatures to formally submit her candidacy.

"Yes, I am running for president so that I can expose the criminals who hide behind fake posts and values," said Sfar, who has almost half a million social media followers.

The dancer vowed to lower the price of bread and ban the hijab and instead impose the traditional Tunisian headscarf known as the safseri if elected to the top spot.

She also pledged to fine men who fail to honour marriage promises and enact a law to give women two-thirds of inheritance, rather than the traditonal one-third.

Tunisia has been praised as a rare case of democratic transition after the Arab Spring uprisings. 

But it has struggled with repeated jihadist attacks, along with inflation and unemployment that have hit Chahed's popularity. 

Rejected presidential candidates can lodge appeals and the final list is set to be published by the end of August, the commission said.

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