Tuesday,18 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1223, (27 November - 3 December 2014)
Tuesday,18 September, 2018
Issue 1223, (27 November - 3 December 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Tunisian run-off

Run-off elections in Tunisia’s first-ever free-and-fair presidential polls are expected next month, reports Karem Yehia

Al-Ahram Weekly

As soon as the polling stations closed in the Tunisian presidential elections last weekend, the police sealed off Avenue Bourguiba in the centre of Tunis to prevent supporters of the two likely winners, who will compete in run-off elections next month, from celebrating the success of their candidate.

The final count is still underway, but exit polls have placed the octogenarian leader of the Nidas Tounes Party, Beji Caid Essebsi, comfortably ahead of the first runner-up, interim President Moncef Marzouki.

Essebsi received just under 40 per cent of the votes, with Marzouki trailing behind with 33 per cent.

Throughout the elections, featuring 27 candidates, Tunisians were glued to their television screens, trying to grasp the implications of their first-ever free-and-fair presidential elections.

Jaloul Azzouna, 70, co-founder of the leftist Popular Front, voiced his satisfaction with what he considered to be democracy in action in Tunisia.

“It is true that the powers of the president are limited under the new constitution in comparison to those of the prime minister, the government and the parliament. But we are witnessing the birth of democracy here and now in a region that is beset by darkness, tyranny, terror and backwardness,” he said.

Judging by the outcome of the previous parliamentary elections last month, there is reason to believe that the final outcome of the presidential elections will closely mirror the exit polls.

The turnout is believed to have been around 65 per cent, which is five percentage points lower than the turnout in the recent parliamentary elections.

But among the young, the turnout is thought to have been lower than the national average. Some say that this confirms that none of the existing parties embrace the aspirations of the young, who led the revolution that ended the rule of ousted former president Zein Al-Abidine Ben Ali nearly four years ago.

With unemployment running high, many Tunisian young people feel less than excited by the country’s post-revolutionary political scene, currently dominated by the Islamists, repressed by earlier regimes, and Nidaa Tounes, which hearkens back to the time of the country’s first president Habib Bourguiba.

With nearly 75 per cent of the vote going to either Essebsi or Marzouki, the options of their rivals appear to be narrowing.

Marzouki is believed to have received the backing of Ennahda supporters, although Tunisia’s top Islamist party refrained from officially endorsing any of the candidates.

It refrained from fielding a candidate in the presidential elections in a move some say was aimed to encourage Nidaa Tounes, now the majority party in the parliament, to offer it the parliamentary speakership, or even to include it in a coalition government.

Most observers expect Essebsi, a seasoned politician who served under Bourguiba and Ben Ali, to beat Marzouki, a human rights activist who partnered with Ennahda in what was called the coalition troika government two years ago.

Coming in third place was leftist candidate Hamma Hammami, who grabbed an estimated 10 per cent of the vote. During a news conference following the poll, Hammami declined to offer his support to any of the candidates remaining in the race, and some analysts expect his left-leaning Popular Front to boycott the run-off.

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