I vote for none of the above in Tunisia

I vote for none of the above in Tunisia
Marzouki will be of a lesser harm to Tunisia’s future and not be the impediment to the democratic path that Essebsi will be. But I will vote for neither. A blank vote is a call for real change.
4 min read
20 Dec, 2014
None of the above (AFP)
Sunday, 21 December, the incumbent Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki faces political veteran Beji Caid Essebsi for the presidency of Tunisia. According to the majority of opinion polls, the latter is the likely to win.

I will cast a blank vote to express my dissatisfaction with both presidential candidates. Behind such a decision there is a deep concern for the aspirations of the common Tunisian man and women, especially the marginalized and the poor, who sparked the 2011 revolution. My decision was not taken at a whim, but after deep reflection.

     The blank vote is simply my principled stance. I vote with my conscience.
Essebsi is the candidate of the former regime and the counter-revolution. Posing as a "genuine’’ successor to the beloved late president Habib Bourguiba, he has been able to delude a large sector of Tunisian society.

Essebsi's secular Nidaa Tounes Party is the largest in parliament with 86 seats. As such, the party will secure the prime minister’s post and the majority of portfolios in the government, most probably including the defense, interior and judicial ministries. If Essebsi, the 88-year-old party leader, also wins the presidential seat in Carthage Palace, Nidaa Tounes will have almost an absolute control of all governmental and institutional levers of power. This is a potential recipe for a return of the old dictatorship with a new face.

The current president Moncef Marzouki has presided over a tripartite alliance with the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party and the two centre-left parties, Ettakatol and al-Mutamar. During his tenure, he displayed a lack of a statesmanship and an inability to build consensus and rally the Tunisian people around a programme for a change and progress. Instead, Tunisia plunged into an economic recession and a drastic deterioration in the security situation that saw to a steep rise in terrorism and political assassinations.

In their respective electoral campaigns, both candidates promised better lives for the marginalized and impoverished. In my opinion, however, the poor will not be of great concern to either candidate. Those hollow promises are just expressions of opportunistic popularism. The two candidates’ track records in government clearly speak to that.

In spite of Marzouki’s failures and incompetence, however, he did attempt during last three years to bridge the gap between Islamists and the secularists – no one can deny that Marzouki is a democratic person. He was aided in this attempt by Ennahdha, which, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is not exclusionary. The Islamists in Tunisia accepted and participated in the democratic process.

Essebsi, on the other hand, would pursue a policy of political exclusion, of his political rivals and the opposition in general. Essebsi’s exclusionary and undemocratic beliefs were nurtured and practiced during the totalitarian rule of the Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, under whom he served.

Even though I choose not to vote for any of the two presidential candidates, in my opinion Marzouki will be of a lesser harm to Tunisia’s future. He will not be the impediment to the democratic path that Essebsi will be.

A blank vote is a positive and responsible vote. It is a rejection of the religious right as well as the alliance of liberals and remnants of the old guards. The blank vote is the voice of a revolution that was cut off. It is a protest against the counter-revolution. It is the voice of the poor and the marginalized. It is a sequel to the revolutionary path that began four years ago. It is a call for the real change that we hoped for when we deposed the totalitarian regime of Ben Ali.

The blank vote is simply my principled stance. I vote with my conscience.

The writer now lives in the United States

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.