An 88-year-old veteran of Tunisia’s political establishment won the country’s presidency, according to official results issued Monday, capping a four-year-long democratic transition. Beji Caid Essebsi campaigned on restoring the “prestige of the state” and a return to stability from the years of turmoil that followed this North African country’s 2011 overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali that kicked off the regional pro-democracy uprisings of the Arab Spring. It is a measure of the country’s yearning for a return to stability after four hard years that a revolution of the youth calling for change and social justice ends up electing a symbol of the old regime.
Tunisians vote in the second round of a presidential election on Sunday, capping off four years of a sometimes chaotic transition since their country sparked the Arab Spring. Incumbent Moncef Marzouki faces political veteran Beji Caid Essebsi in the vote – the first time Tunisians will be allowed to freely elect their president since independence from France in 1956. It was protests in Tunisia and the 2011 ouster of long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali that set off the chain of revolts that saw several Arab dictators toppled by citizens demanding democratic reforms. From Egypt and Libya to Syria and Yemen, violent unrest followed. But Tunisia has largely avoided the bloodshed that has plagued other Arab Spring states, and its citizens are feeling hopeful ahead of the run-off vote.
Since the ouster of long-time dictator Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia has been the bellwether for the revolutions that have rocked the Middle East. Three years into their revolution, Tunisians stand at a crossroads: a choice between “protecting” the revolution and sacrificing some revolutionary gains for the sake of stability. Last month’s presidential elections are, in the eyes of many hopeful Tunisians, the capstone to a tumultuous period of post-revolutionary instability. Over twenty candidates ran in the first round elections, but to many external observers and Tunisians it was a race between two candidates that embody the fierce debate occurring within the country. In one camp is the establishment candidate: Beji Caid Essebsi. A remnant of not only Ben Ali’s government but the government of his predecessor Habib Bourgiba, Essebsi has campaigned on providing Tunisians with a modicum of security after three years of uncertainty.
Tunisia’s first democratic presidential election will be decided in a runoff next month between the two leading candidates, President Moncef Marzouki and Beji Caid Essebsi, a former prime minister, the election board announced on Tuesday. Preliminary results of the first round, held on Sunday, showed Mr. Essebsi in first place with 39.46 percent of the vote, and Mr. Marzouki second with 33.43 percent. The two front-runners will face each other in a runoff because no candidate secured a majority in the race. Given that only six percentage points separated them in the first round, the runoff may well be a closer contest than expected. It has already reopened the deep divisions in Tunisian society between secularists and Islamists and could frustrate hopes of a national unity government between the two main blocs in Parliament: Mr. Essebsi’s party, Nidaa Tounes, and the main Islamist party, Ennahda.
Tunisia’s presidential election is poised to enter a hotly contested runoff vote next month, after unofficial results showed the interim president faring better than expected against the candidate widely tipped to win. Moncef Marzouki, who was voted in as interim president in 2011 by the Constituent Assembly, appeared to have secured between 32% and 35% of Sunday’s vote, according to a tabulation released on Monday by a respected Tunisian election monitoring group, Mourakiboun. Mr. Marzouki, a human-rights activist and longtime dissident during the autocratic regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was seen as the only candidate who could pose a challenge to favorite Beji Caid Essebsi, but few observers believed he could garner such a high percentage of the vote. He was believed to have been weakened by the slow and often turbulent transition in Tunisia since a popular uprising unseated Mr. Ben Ali in 2011.
In this city where the Arab Spring was born, an undercurrent of anxiety accompanied the country’s first democratic presidential election on Sunday. Outside the cosmopolitan coastal capital of Tunis, front-runner Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old politician who served under two autocratic regimes, is viewed with suspicion. He is seen as an unsettling relic of the autocratic regimes that ruled Tunisia from its independence from France in 1956 until the 2010 uprising. “You can’t be stung by the same scorpion twice,” said Najib Issaoui, a 27-year-old fruit vendor in a small market in the center of Sidi Bouzid. “The revolution is in progress. But it isn’t finished.”
Tunisians turned out in steady, orderly lines on Sunday to vote in their first free and democratic presidential election, voicing confidence that they were turning the page on the often-fractious transition after the revolution of 2011. Exit polls suggested that neither of the two leading candidates — the interim president, Moncef Marzouki, and the former prime minister, Beji Caid Essebsi — was likely to win an outright majority and that a runoff between them would be necessary. Official results were not expected for one or two days. Mr. Essebsi, 87, leads the secular party Nidaa Tounes and has been ahead in polls for months; his party won the largest bloc of seats in parliamentary elections in October. He appeared to be winning between 42 percent and 47 percent of the vote on Sunday, according to the results of two private exit polls that were announced on Tunisian television channels.
Campaign posters and banners for next week’s presidential elections have covered the walls of Tunisia’s cities and towns, papering over the flaking posters from the parliamentary elections just three weeks ago. The presidential campaign, featuring 25 competitors, kicked off in early November. If no candidate wins a majority on Nov. 23, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters on Dec. 28. The favorite to win is Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran politician who served under Ben Ali and his predecessor Habib Bourguiba, and whose party won the most seats in parliament — 39 percent — in the October elections. After 3 1/2 years of a stormy transition marked by high unemployment and terrorist attacks, Tunisians voted for Essebsi’s party Nida Tunis (Tunisia’s Call) hoping to bring back stability and prosperity. Essebsi started his campaign in Bourguiba’s coastal home town of Monastir and evoked nostalgia for this towering figure of Tunisia’s history who won independence from France and created a modern state defined by a well-educated middle class — albeit with little room for dissent. The possibility of an old-regime politician and his party controlling both the presidency and parliament has raised some concern.
Campaign posters and banners for next week’s presidential elections have covered the walls of Tunisia’s cities and towns, papering over the flaking posters from the parliamentary elections just three weeks ago. The presidential campaign, featuring 25 competitors, kicked off in early November and it’s the first time since Tunisians overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 that they will choose their head of state through universal suffrage. If no candidate wins a majority Nov. 23, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters on Dec. 28. Alone among the countries that experienced the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, Tunisia’s transition has remained on track. The favorite to win is Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran politician who served under Ben Ali and his predecessor Habib Bourguiba, and whose party won the most seats in parliament — 39 percent — in the October elections.
Campaigning opened Saturday for a presidential election in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, with secularist Beji Caid Essebsi seen as the front-runner after his party won milestone parliamentary polls. Essebsi, 87, leads a field of 27 candidates in the November 23 vote, after Nidaa Tounes came out on top in last Sunday’s legislative election, beating the previously dominant moderate Islamist movement Ennahda. Tunisians hope both elections will provide much-sought stability nearly four years after the revolution that drove longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power in 2011. Presidential candidates include the incumbent, Moncef Marzouki, woman magistrate Kalthoum Kannou and also former Ben Ali ministers. If no candidate secures an absolute majority on November 23, a second round of voting will take place in late December. It will be the first time Tunisians have voted freely for their head of state.
A self-styled, secular, modernist party called Nidaa Tounes won against the Islamist Ennahda party in the Tunisian election this week. For many, the subsequent headline – “Secularist party wins Tunisia elections” – will seem more impressive than the fact Tunisia just completed its second genuinely competitive, peaceful elections since 2011. Indeed, in a region wracked by extremism and civil war, the secularists’ victory will strike many as further proof that Tunisia is moving forward and is the sole bright spot in a gloomy region. Some may prematurely celebrate, yet again, the death of political Islam, arguing that Tunisians achieved through the ballot box what Egyptians achieved through a popular coup, rejecting the Brotherhood and its cousin-like movements once and for all. We should exercise caution, however, in labelling Nidaa Tounes’s victory part of a seamless sweep of democratic achievements, or seeing Sunday’s vote as a clear referendum against all varieties of political Islam.
The secular Nidaa Tounes party won the largest number of seats in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections on Monday, defeating its main rival, the Islamist party Ennahda, which just three years ago swept to power as the North African nation celebrated the fall of its longtime dictator in the Arab Spring revolution. Though just a few official results had been released on Monday night, Ennahda’s leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, called Beji Caid Essebsi, the 87-year-old leader of Nidaa Tounes, on Monday evening to congratulate him. Mr. Ghannouchi then threw a large street party for party workers outside Ennahda’s campaign headquarters, with music and fireworks. Ennahda’s former foreign minister, Rafik Abdessalem, said that by the party’s count, Ennahda had won 69 to 73 seats, while Nidaa Tounes had most likely won 83 seats. “We accept the result,” Mr. Abdessalem said. “There are some irregularities, but we consider we succeeded in this process to hold transparent democratic elections.”
Twenty-seven candidates including officials who served under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali have signed up as candidates for Tunisia’s November 23 presidential election, the organising body said Tuesday. No fewer than 70 people originally filed applications to the Isie, which is organising the first presidential election since the January 2011 revolt forced Ben Ali to flee. “Of the 70, 27 complied with all of the conditions and were accepted, while 41 were rejected,” Isie chairman Chafik Sarsar told a news conference, adding that two other candidates withdrew.
Tunisia’s constituent assembly has adopted a provisional constitution that sets the stage for the country to name a new government, nearly two months after its first post-revolution election. The 217-member assembly, elected in November, individually approved each of the 26 clauses of the document to get state institutions back on the move.
The adopted document outlines the conditions and procedures to be followed by the country’s executive, legislature and judiciary until general elections are held, possibly in a year, and a final constitution is agreed.
The vote – 141 in favour, 37 against and 39 abstentions from a boycotting opposition – came after a tumultuous five-day debate that saw thousands of people demonstrating outside the assembly building, at times over what role Islam should play in the country’s new order.
Campaigning closes in Tunisia Friday, two days before its first democratic elections, with a formerly banned Islamist party poised to dominate an assembly that will pave the way for a new government.
Nine months after the ouster of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt that sparked region-wide pro-democracy uprisings, more than seven million potential voters will have a final chance to hear the main parties’ election promises at closing rallies planned countrywide. Campaigning closes at midnight.
On Sunday, three days after the Arab Spring claimed its latest victim with the killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, Tunisians will seek to turn the page on decades of post-colonial autocratic rule by electing 217 members of a constituent assembly from more than 10,000 candidates.
Just weeks before Tunisians head to the polls in historic Constituent Assembly elections, politicians are debating what role the legislative body will play in the future of the country.
Parties, independents and intellectuals are divided into two groups. The first group supports a proposal to restrict the task of the Constituent Assembly to creating a new constitution through a referendum on the same day as the October 23rd poll. The other faction, meanwhile, has called for making the assembly a sovereign entity with full powers.
Mohsen Marzouk, Secretary-General of the Arab Organisation for Democracy who came up with the idea of referendum, believes that the role of the Constituent Assembly must be restricted to drafting the constitution, and that the government should proceed with its work until legislative and presidential elections are held within one year. Marzouk expressed fear that members of the Constituent Assembly might not agree on the formation of a new government.
Tunisia’s first election following the ouster of its long-serving President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January last has been put off by three months, reports said on Wednesday. Consequently polls for electing the country’s new Constituent Assembly will now be held on October 23.
Announcing the postponement, Interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi said the Electoral Commission had asked for time-out ostensibly for resolving technical problems.
He said there were several Tunisians who had reservations on delaying elections. Even the interim government had been initially reluctant but it nonetheless wanted polls to take place in a transparent manner.