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Tunisia strengthens the step in its democratic transition with the holding of its second presidential elections since the fall of the Ben Ali dictatorship. The scrutiny, to which 26 candidates are presented, is anticipated as vital as full of uncertainty, since there are no consolidated leaders among the bunch of applicants, and surely a second round must be held.
According to the first polls on foot of the ballot box, independent lawyer Kaïes Said would have won and faced second round with media mogul Nabil Karoui .
Some seven million voters (the total population is just over 11 million) are called to the polls to decide who will be at the head of the state. After the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi on July 25, the elections scheduled for November have had to move forward two months. If the previous election date, in 2014, settled on a powerful fracture between pro and anti-Islamists, this time the debate focuses on the economic and social field, the great challenges of Tunisia post Ben Ali.
For the first time since it was legalized after the 2011 revolution, the moderate Islamist party In Nahda has decided to present a candidate to head the state headquarters: veteran lawyer Abdelfatah Moru . Next to the historic Islamist leader Rachid Ghanuchi , Moru is one of the most moderate and atypical figures in the party.
Conservative formation, which has dominated Parliament these eight and a half years by virtue of its good electoral results, is gaining self-confidence. Disenchanted with her experience in the Government, between 2011 and 2014, In Nahda she has been filing her positions until in 2016 she announced her resignation from political Islam to become a Muslim-Democratic movement.
"The Tunisians are now familiar with the existence of En Nahda as a normal party, the situation is very favorable," Ghanuchi said a week after the presidential elections. Not only does the party now make the leap to the presidential race, but Ghanuchi himself has appeared in the legislative elections next October 6 and aspires to preside over the Parliament. This position is currently held, on an interim basis, by Abdelfatah Moru.
Serious possibilities of a second round
For the political scientist Hamza Meddeb there are serious chances that Moru will pass the second round. "The big question is who will be his rival, given the fragmentation of the secular landscape," he explains to Afp. Internal disputes have left the party that created the late President Essebsi, Nidaa Tunes out of play, and in front of the oiled political machinery of En Nahda there is a mosaic of candidates. The Independent Electoral Instance (ISIE) has prohibited the publication of polls, although some voting studies circulate.
Favorite media mogul Nabil Karui , a controversial personality who - accused of tax fraud and money laundering - was arrested on August 23. The ISIE did not, however, prevent his candidacy, and his first campaign rally, on September 7, coincided with him in jail. He had to be his wife, Salwa Smaui , who replaced him with 2,000 followers in the mining city of Gafsa . But precisely this situation seems to have earned him points as a candidate.
Another contender with chances of being in the second round is until recently Prime Minister Yusef Chahed , 43. Chahed, a former member of Nidaa Tunis who had his more and less with Essebsi (the son of the then president, Hafez, came to expel him from the party), founded his own formation, Tahya Tunes (Long live Tunisia), with other renegades of skepticism .
There is also Abdelkrim Zbidi , 69, current Defense Minister and ally of Essebsi. He was close to Ben Ali, which makes him an option for the nostalgic who defend the order and security of the dictatorship. Tunisia is now at the mercy of the disruption of the conflict in neighboring Libya and in 2015 it suffered two serious terrorist attacks with a total of 62 deaths.
They are joined by several former prime ministers, including the technocrat Mehdi Jumaa and Hamadi Jebali , now a dissident of En Nahda. The former president of the Constituent Assembly (2011-2014) and human rights activist, Moncef Marzuki , who defeated Essebsi in 2014 returns to the charge. For the first time, Tunisia has an openly gay candidate: Nabil Baatur , who promises to decriminalize the homosexuality. Only two women aspire to reach the Palace of Carthage , headquarters of the Presidency: Salma Elloumi , former Minister of Tourism, and Abir Musi , an exponent of the former Benalist regime. And so on until 26, although two candidates withdrew days before the election date and gave their support to Zbidi.
The socioeconomic situation is the main concern among Tunisian voters, who, although they have seen the margins of civil liberties widen since 2011, have not experienced an improvement in their standard of living. The unemployment rate exceeds 15% (among young graduates it reaches 30%) and inflation rises to 6.8%. The fracture between the regions of the interior - less developed - and those of the coast - that monopolize the industrial investments and the tourism - continues ballasting the country. The marginalization of the agricultural and mining interior was one of the accelerators of the revolutionary fire that ended Ben Ali and set the entire Arab World on fire in a domino effect.
Aware that it is urgent to repair social and regional differences, In Nahda he has focused his electoral program on them: "We will try to reduce regional disparities and eliminate them completely," Ghanuchi said. Also billionaire Nabil Karui, whose Qalb Tunes (Heart of Tunisia) party bases its program on "the battle against poverty and unemployment." Karui has been heavily criticized for using his charitable foundation Khalil Touns i, which distributes food and medicine in disadvantaged areas, for electoral purposes.
Essebsi's wife dies
Chadlia Farhat , wife of Tunisian President Beji Caïd Essebsi, has died at 83 years of age on the same day that Tunisians choose her husband's successor at the polls. The death has been announced by his son, Hafedh , general secretary of the ruling party founded by his father through his page in a well-known social network.
Farhat had been transferred to a hospital on Saturday as his condition worsened, the Tunisian official press explains without further details.
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