Tunisian candidates kick off campaigns
By Mona Yahia for Magharebia from Tunis – 13/10/09
Days ahead of Tunisia's presidential and legislative elections on October 25th, political campaigns got under way on Sunday (October 11th). Four candidates are competing for the presidency and eight parties are jostling for spots in the 214-seat Chamber of Deputies.
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of the ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) chose the day to begin his presidential campaign for a fifth term, delivering a speech to thousands of supporters. He used the occasion to outline his platform, which includes developing the media and creating a youth parliament, and pledge fairness in this year's elections.
Besides Ben Ali, the Tunisian Constitutional Council approved three other presidential candidates: Mohamed Bouchiha of the Popular Unity Party (PUP), Ahmed Innoubli of the Unionist Democratic Union, and Ahmed Ibrahim of the Ettajdid Movement.
Not every opposition party is participating. The Progressive Democratic Party, headed by Maya Jribi, announced on Sunday that it was pulling out of the legislative races due to what it called a "lack of the necessary requirements for participation".
The remaining parties began the first day of campaigning by placing candidates' pictures, party posters and manifestos in locations set aside for electoral materials. Party workers also distributed flyers to voters
However, some of the spaces designated for party materials remained empty, either because some parties found the locations inaccessible or because their manifestos and pictures of candidates were confiscated. The Ettajdid Movement claimed that this was the case for their presidential candidate, Ahmed Ibrahim.
Party member Sofiene Chourabi claimed on Facebook that Tunisian authorities confiscated Ibrahim's manifestos and demanded the deletion of five whole paragraphs. They also reportedly confiscated campaign pictures of Ibrahim.
Tunisian authorities have yet to comment on the allegations.
Ettajdid Movement members also complained that authorities seized the last edition of its at-Tarikal al- Jadid newspaper. According to party members, Interior Ministry agents collected all copies of the newspaper in the printing house on Saturday and told the printing house owner that the edition was being confiscated
A source interviewed by the Tunis News Agency said that under the Electoral Law and the Press Law, authorities confiscated the issue because it included manifestos that were published without completing the necessary legal submission procedures.
Other opposition parties chose to launch their campaigns outside of Tunis, as was the case with the socialist PUP. The Popular Unity Party kicked off its races from the Central Tunisia city of Kairouan.
Supporters of various other parties were seen parading through Tunisian streets, carrying party banners.
RCD candidates began their campaigning under normal circumstances. RCD legislative candidate Hedi Jilani met with supporters on Sunday in the Bab Souika area. Party activists assembled around the candidate, wearing the signature red RCD scarves, singing party songs and carrying pictures of President Ben Ali.
"We'll dedicate all our energy to making our candidates win by a huge margin," said Mourad, who supports the RCD's candidates.
All of the candidates have recorded speeches that will be aired on Tunisian radio and television stations throughout the campaign period, which is slated to end October 23rd.
The speeches are being broadcast from Monday (October 12th) through Friday (October 23rd). Radio stations will broadcast the speeches at 4:00 PM, while speeches will be aired on television starting at 5:00 PM.
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