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Ben Ali enters Tunisian presidential race

By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 27/08/09

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Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali officially joined the field of candidates Wednesday (August 26th) in the country's 2009 presidential election, scheduled for October 25th.

The president said he would ensure that Tunisia "always remain the nation of hard work, ijtihad, moderation, dialogue, tolerance, solidarity and concord", if elected to a fifth five-year term.

A day earlier, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) announced his withdrawal from the presidential race, which he claimed "lacks the minimum requirements of freedom, integrity and transparency".

He accused the authorities of "closing of the doors of hope in the face of Tunisians".

Chebbi, the former PDP secretary-general, began campaigning informally earlier this year. His presidential bid became officially illegal however, after the government enacted a law that requires presidential candidates to be the elected secretary-general of a recognised party.

Despite Chebbi's withdrawal from the race, at least three challengers will face Ben Ali in the October vote: Mohammed Bouchiha of the People's Unity Party (PUP), Ahmed Brahim of the Ettajdid Movement, and Ahmed Innoubli of the Unionist Democratic Union.

President Ben Ali demanded a fair election in an August 15th meeting with the Interior Minister, requesting that "this important political milestone be conducted in an atmosphere of transparency and respect of law".

Nevertheless, Ahmed Brahim has complained of an unfair government crackdown on his party and its newspaper. During a press conference on August 18th, Brahim said the Ettajdid Movement expressed its "strong protest" after "the authorities completely impeded the regular political meetings and activities of the party".

He claimed that his party had to cancel three political activities in a single week after authorities pressured Tunis hotels "to prevent them from renting space to the party to hold its meetings".

Finally, Brahim accused the Tunisian authorities of impeding the distribution of his party's weekly newspaper, Attariq Aljadid. He called on the government to "put an end to these exclusionist practices", and to provide the "minimum requirements of fair competition during the elections".

On August 19th, an "anonymous government source" denied any crackdown on Brahim or his Ettajdid Movement, calling the allegations "completely baseless". The statement, released to foreign media in Tunisia, assured readers that the "Ettajdid Movement, like any other political party in Tunisia, is free to organise its activities and to express its opinions and positions."

The source also said that the hotel booking problem arose due to an "incorrect bank check" when the party made the reservations.

An anonymous source told Magharebia: "The check which was given to the hotel was actually incorrect, as it was dated 2000 instead of 2009." The same official said that the party had been allowed to meet in two other locations, in Monastir and Madhia.

Mondher Thabet of the Liberal Social Party said that his group had not suffered any harassment in its political activities. "In our party movements and activities, we're careful not to use provocative slogans," he said.

He expressed his hope that all the competing parties would "abide by the democratic game and fair competition rules".

Hicham Al Hajji of the PUP political bureau told Magharebia that his party had "carried out a lot of activities inside the capital and outside, in public and private venues, and we haven't found anything but help".

On July 30th, Abdelwaheb El Behi, President of the National Observatory for Presidential and Legislative Elections, stressed the impartiality of his institution and said it would record all violations and work hard to ensure independent and transparent elections.

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  1. Anonymous_thumb

    Meski Manoubia 2009-9-12

    My comment was not published, and yet I expressed my opinion without offending or insulting anyone. This risks putting your impartiality in doubt.

    Readers are reminded that the publication of comments may be delayed due to translation into the site's three languages: Arabic, French and English.


  2. Anonymous_thumb

    manoubia meski 2009-9-11

    When choosing a candidate, we do not judge him based on the years he spent governing, but on his policies, his accomplishment and, in short, the results he achieved. Ben Ali undertook revolutionary reforms in all domains. He developed Tunisia, as was witness by viable international reports like Davos' and the awards presented to president by large international institutions and bodies. Pluralism came to light with Ben Ali. The conditions of democracy are visible and are growing stronger day by day. As a consequence, I am voting for Ben Ali, the guarantor of the future.


  3. Anonymous_thumb

    safi 2009-8-29

    I'm not Tunisian, I'm not even Arab one. But I know Tunisia and Tunisian- mane years spended there. Anr really, this facr, that Ben Ali, I respect him a lot, but really this is amazing, this man Many years is THE ONE!!!!!! They others politic organizasions!!, but there everybody affraid to change even the smallest datail!!!!! I wish this country all the best in the futhure!!!


  4. Anonymous_thumb

    hasni 2009-8-29

    "He is not sure about being elected"!? Bwahahahaha! It is clear that he will win with only 94%! What a horror! He has to rig the elections, but not all the way to 99.99%.


  5. Anonymous_thumb

    Ahmed Charfeddine 2009-8-28

    I am Tunisian. I have been observing the pre-election events. According to my own personal, independent convictions, it is not possible to explain being in power for such a long time without imagining that there has been some sort of repression of politicians who are capable of having the abilities of a head of state. At the very least, there should be something that has made it impossible for competent politicians to show themselves and appear on the scene to gain everyone's recognition and become candidates of equal popularity. If this is not the case, then I think the political group is approaching a homogenous political structure, according to which Ben Ali and the party in power are our reality, and those who are opposed to this reality are in the process of harming this group's interests. Given that I think it is possible that such a group would receive more interest in a better, fairer system, and given that I am convinced that the people could aspire for a life that is far better if our nation's competencies were to take the country's reigns, Ben Ali will not get my vote in the upcoming re-election.


  6. Anonymous_thumb

    maaroufi mouldi 2009-8-28

    This is a happy day for the tunisians and all the arabs.BEN ALI's aspirations ,actions,thinking,approach, views ,achievements to clarify the arab standing in the highest offices in the last twenty ears are unparalleled and i am sure that there is more to come .Building the dream reaching the unreachable harmonising life for all is not an easy task ,it takes men of great vision ,pure heart and lots of guts and sacrifices to defend the right to improve people's lives to reach the impossible dream in the world today.


  7. Anonymous_thumb

    boughmiga 2009-8-28

    Tunisia is Noah's Ark for peace and humanity. May all the people of good will stay on guard to preserve both its authentic and open civilisation, the values it has acquired and its promising potential for our common survival.


  8. Anonymous_thumb

    Anonymous 2009-8-27

    I wonder why so many people want to protect their anonymity on Magharebia when it comes to Tunisia, the nation of moderation, dialogue, tolerance, solidarity and harmony, as Ben Ali said so well during his candidature. Even the governmental sources, who do not criticise Ben Ali but, rather, contradict the statements of his competitors, prefer to protect their anonymity. Is this because the chances that Ben Ali will win this election are only fleeting? He himself seems to doubt his chances, as was reported by Arfaoui: "IF re-elected for a five-year term..." So, his re-election is supposed to rather random. The time of victories with 99.99% of the vote seems to be over. Ben Ali's campaign is changing the atmosphere of the last American elections. Obama and McCain did not doubt their chance to win at all. During their public appearances and in their debates, each of them showed how sure they were about winning. Each of them was presented by their supporters as the "future president of the United States". Doubt was not permitted. Ben Ali has given them a lesson in humility and modesty. He is not sure of being elected. In Tunisia, the electors are the ones who decide. For this reason, the governmental sources that support Ben Ali are suddenly afraid and prefer to protect their anonymity. They are afraid of the vengeance of the next Tunisian president. According to my own polls, I can state that most Tunisian voters are also afraid of the next president.