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Tunisia's Kais Saied announces presidential re-election bid

Kais Saied announces presidential re-election bid to 'save Tunisia from foreign forces'
2 min read
06 April, 2024
Current president Kais Saied, accused by many of authoritarianism, announced that he will run for re-election in this year's presidential election.
Saied's re-election could spell the end for Tunisia's already fragile democratic system [Getty[

Tunisia’s authoritarian incumbent president Kais Saied announced on Saturday that he will run for a second presidential term and will legally submit his candidacy in the prescribed period.

In a speech commemorating the 24th anniversary of the death of Tunisian statesman Habib Bourguiba, Saied criticised parties that boycotted the legislative elections “but are now rushing to the presidential elections,” according to Sky News Arabia.

He accused unnamed parties of “seeking refuge in foreign support”, noting sarcastically that “these [outside] parties cannot run for presidential elections in Tunisia.”

“Many should know that power is not an ambition, a chair, and a sofa as they imagine and dream, but it is a responsibility,” he added.

Since his authoritarian coup in 2021, Saied has faced criticism for arresting a host of opposition figures, critical journalists and political activists in what rights groups have called a broad and comprehensive crackdown on dissent.

Chaima Issa, one of Tunisia’s most prominent critics of Saied’s rule and who was herself arrested and charged with “insulting the president” in December of last year, has said Tunisia’s president is building a “tyranny”.

Saied’s critics are often accused by him and his supporters of being agents of outside forces and of attempting to corrupt Tunisia through migration from Africa. He is among the only non-white political leaders to embrace the Great Replacement Theory, a typically white supremacist conspiracy theory that posits that migration is used by shadowy elites to “replace” native populations.

While announcing his run for the presidency, Saied doubled down on such rhetoric, pledging to “purify the country from those who have spread corruption everywhere and there will be no turning back.”

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“Tunisia is waging a war of survival against those who wanted to bring down the state after January 14, 2011, to blow it up from within, to strike at its public facilities, and those who want to degrade the state's institutions with the aim of hitting the homeland. However, Tunisian men and women have shown an unprecedented awareness of this conspiracy plotted against them”, Saied said during his speech on Saturday.

“[T]he people know all the secrets and will confront with the same determination, will, and high spirit of patriotism anyone who wants to throw themselves into the arms of foreigners and harm independent Tunisia,” he added.

Tunisia’s presidential election is set to go ahead in September or October of this year, with the main opposition hope lying with Essam Chebbi, the jailed leader of the centrist liberal democratic Republican Party.