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Tunisian presidential candidates begin seeking endorsement - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tunisian interim President Moncef Marzouki, center, speaks to the press at the Aouina military airport in Tunis on June 30, 2014. (Reuters/Anis Mili)

Tunisian interim President Moncef Marzouki, center, speaks to the press at the Aouina military airport in Tunis on June 30, 2014. (Reuters/Anis Mili)

Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—Potential presidential candidates in Tunisia have begun seeking political endorsement to be legally entitled to run in the race following the announcement of the date of the polls on June 23.

There are currently 13 potential candidates for the elections, due to begin on November 23, a figure likely to go up to 15 if the Ennahda Movement and the Al-Massar Party decide to put forward a candidate for the country’s top post.

Those candidates from parties with 10 seats or more in the country’s parliament are entitled to run for the presidency without the need to seek further endorsement from other MPs or registered voters.

Currently, only four potential candidates fall into this category.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, a leading member of Tunisia’s former Troika government and the leader of the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties (Ettakatol) party, has already announced he will run for the post, positioning himself as a “consensus candidate” able to gain the backing of different political groups in the country, including the Islamist Ennahda Movement.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat earlier this month, Ben Jaafar said it would be “an honor” to run for the post as a consensus candidate.

Ettakatol currently has 13 MPs in parliament.

Current interim President Moncef Marzouki will also be joining the race for the presidency, and will secure the backing of his Congress for the Republic (CPR) party, which currently has 12 seats in parliament.

The other two candidates not requiring further backing beyond MPs from their own parties are the former secretary general of the CPR Abderraouf Ayadi—now currently backed by the Independent Democratic Congress (Wafa) movement, which has 10 seats in parliament—and the Democratic Alliance Party’s secretary general, Mohamed Hamdi.

The rest of the potential candidates require endorsement either by at least 10 members of the Constituent Assembly and 40 heads of elected local group councils (municipalities), or 10,000 registered voters from at least 10 constituencies—provided that their number is not less than 500 voters from each constituency—in order to be able to join the presidential race.

These include former interim prime minister during 2011 and the founder of the left-leaning Nidaa Tounes (Tunisian Call), Beji Caid El-Sebsi, and former foreign minister under ousted president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Kamel Morjane—both expected to run despite not yet officially announcing their candidature.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat earlier in June, Morjane said he was considering the move, but would only make the decision “according to the nation’s interest.”

The former ruling Islamist Ennahda Movement has not yet determined its stance on the presidential polls, but has not ruled out putting forward a candidate from among its leaders or supporting a candidate from outside the party.

The movement has offered an initiative for reaching an agreement on a political figure to support in the election, but is still under debate among the movement’s ranks.

The rest of the parties that may nominate candidates in the presidential election have not got the required number of MPs and have either to ally with other parties represented in parliament or resort to the other possible legal measures to secure endorsement for nomination through the heads of municipalities or voters.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Tunisian political analyst Jamel Arfaoui said that endorsement would not be difficult for candidates from larger political parties, but warned of “political money” being used to influence the process of electing the country’s next president. “This could lead to the election of a president subject to the influence of financial interests which will later affect the credibility of political life as a whole,” he said.