Outspoken, long-time judge Kalthoum Kannou is Tunisia’s first female presidential candidate. On 23 November, she will compete against 22 other contenders in the country’s first round of presidential elections since the Arab Spring’s protest wave overthrew the long-lasting regime of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Kannou is hoping that the fact that she is a woman and politically independent will win the Tunisian voters’ confidence. However, who is Kannou, what does she stand for and what are her chances? Today, Tunisia’s young and commendable democracy has somewhat 190 political parties, most of which were established in its post-revolutionary era. However, Kannou is not happy with the current political scene; many political parties compete against each other and make promises they can’t keep, she argued passionately over coffee at her headquarters in Lafayette, an old Tunis quarter. “Focus is not on Tunisia’s best,” Kannou told me. Instead, argued the 55-year old judge, the political climate is dominated by quarrels over political ideology and that the debate is far too verbal and confrontational. What her country needs now, when Tunisia is beginning a new chapter of its young democracy, is unity. “Tunisians have had enough of politics,” explained Kannou, “That’s why I presented myself for the presidency,” she declared proudly, “an independent candidate without political affiliation.”
The presidential campaign was launched four days after the country successfully held its first parliamentary election since the constitution. Tunisians defied predictions of low voter turnout, as around 60 percent of registered voters went to the polls. A majority of votes went to secular political party Nidaa Tounes, gaining 85 of 217 seats, followed by moderate Islamist party, Ennahdha with 69 seats. The elections, deemed as free and fair, was another milestone for the country’s successful democratic transition.
Kannou remembers well the day when she decided to run for office. “It was 13 July,” she told me, she had just read a proposal from moderate Islamist party Ennahdha suggesting that the winning political party of the parliamentary elections would determine the country’s president. “No, this is not democratic,” she thought, “So at this very moment I decided to run, to give the Tunisian citizens the possibility, and their right, to choose their, the people’s president.” Her presidential slogan, “Yes we Kannou,” is a play with US President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign slogan, “Yes we can.”