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Tunisian presidential election, 2014

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Tunisian presidential election, 2014

A presidential election was held in Tunisia on 23 November 2014, a month after the parliamentary election. It was the first free and fair presidential election since the country gained independence in 1956, as well as the first regular presidential election after the Tunisian Revolution of 2011 and the adoption of the Constitution in January 2014.

Contents

Since no candidate won a majority during the first round of voting, a second round between incumbent Moncef Marzouki and Nidaa Tounes candidate Beji Caid Essebsi took place on 21 December. On 22 December official results showed that Essebsi won the election, with 55.68% of the run-off vote.

Background

Protests in Tunisia began in December 2010 with riots in Sidi Bouzid after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in protest against the confiscation of his fruit and vegetable cart. The riots then spread across the country and continued into 2011. Days after a curfew was imposed in the capital Tunis amid continuing conflagrations, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali left the country. Ben Ali's Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi briefly took over as acting president before he handed power over to parliamentary speaker Fouad Mebazaa after the head of Tunisia's Constitutional Court, Fethi Abdennadher, declared that Ghannouchi did not have the right to take power and Mebazaa would have 60 days to organise a new general election. For his part, Mebazaa said it was in the country's best interest to form a National Unity government.

Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally considered changing its name (retaining the "Constitution" part in some form) and running in the general election on an anti-Islamist platform. However, the party was banned on 6 February 2011 and dissolved on 9 March 2011.

Upon being elected in 2011, the Troika coalition made a "moral pledge" to cede power within a year. However, Ennahdha and its allies, the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, were still in power and yet the constituent assembly has not finalized a new constitution. This has led to the opposition accusing the government of overstaying their implicit term and also of using intimidation to try to silence dissent. The opposition also accused the government of using the constituent assembly to push through legislation that would enable them to stay in power. Former speaker of the assembly, Ettakatol’s Mustapha Ben Jaafar then supported the opposition's call for a non-partisan government after he dissolved the assembly in August. Ennahda, on the other hand, fears that some parts of the opposition are trying to keep it from regaining power and have been emboldened by the August 2013 Egyptian raids. At the same time, a Gallup poll suggested that Tunisians were losing faith in their government.

The head of the Higher Political Reform Commission, Yadh Ben Achour, warned that Tunisia risked anarchy if the transitional period is not handled with care, as institutions and mechanisms of the state are either in disarray or still tainted by links to Ben Ali's regime. Ben Achour also stated that the commission was unsure whether it would be better to reform the constitution or elect a constitutional assembly to write a completely new one, but that it had to be decided soon, as the public was growing tired of waiting. He also confirmed elections would not be held by 15 March 2011 as theoretically stipulated by the constitution, pointing to force majeure as legitimate grounds for taking longer until the election. The election has been delayed further by the annulment of 36 candidates who were elected to Tunisia's board of elections. The election board will be created by giving the candidates list to the constituent assembly, thus bypassing the judiciary, which cannot review plenary sessions of the constituent assembly. The electoral law, which did not include a ban on former regime officials running from office, was approved on 1 May 2014. The filing period for presidential candidates lasted from 8 September until 22 September.

Dates

The interim government announced on 25 February 2011, that the election would be held by mid-July "at the latest". The constitution of Tunisia mandates an election to occur within 45 to 60 days of the Constitutional Council's declaration of the presidency being vacant, but there were calls by the opposition to delay the elections and hold them only within six or seven months, with international supervision. The elections have been delayed until late 2013. On 15 March 2013, the constituent assembly voted 81-21 to hold elections between 15 October 2013 and 15 December 2013.

As a result of the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi and ensuing protests, which called for the dismissal of the government and the dissolution of the government, that turned violent, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh set 17 December as the date of the election. He said: "This government will stay in office: we are not clinging to power, but we have a duty and a responsibility that we will exercise to the end. We think that the National Constituent Assembly will complete the electoral code by October 23 at the latest so elections can be held on December 17." This followed Education Minister Salem Labiadh submitting his resignation and calls by Ennahda ally Ettakatol to dissolve the government. Lobni Jribi said: "We have called for the dissolution of the government in favour of a new unity government that would represent the broadest form of consensus. If Ennahda refuses this suggestion, we will withdraw from government." A government of independents was sworn in on 29 January 2014.

Candidates

Ennahda announced on 8 September 2014 that it would not put forth a presidential candidate. Béji Caïd Essebsi submitted his candidacy on 9 September 2014. Kamel Morjane , a foreign minister under former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, announced on 13 September 2014 that he would run for the presidency. Incumbent president Moncef Marzouki announced on 20 September 2014 that he would run for re-election. Other candidates include Mohamed Hechmi Hamdi, Mustapha Kamel Nabli, Ahmed Najib Chebbi, Mustapha Ben Jafar and Mondher Zenaidi. 27 candidates were allowed to run, out of the 70 who applied. Five candidates withdrew before the election: Abderraouf Ayadi, Abderrahim Zouari (throwing his support to Béji Caïd Essebsi), Mohamed Hamdi, Noureddine Hached and Mustapha Kamel Nabli.

The final list of presidential candidates comprises:

Protests

Following the assassination of Brahmi, protests continued in Tunisia by liberals. After weeks of such protests supporters of the incumbent Ennahda party rallied in Kasbah Square, where rallies had occurred during the Tunisian revolution, on 3 August following a call from the party. The protesters chanted "No to coups, yes to elections."

Ennahda Party National Constituent Assembly (NCA) member Nejib Mrad’s statement on Tuesday on Mutawassit TV that an overthrow is under way took Tunisian national media by storm. Following Ennahda spokeswoman Yusra Ghannouchi telling Al Jazeera that the country did not want a repeat of "the Egyptian scenario," party MP Nejib Mrad released a statement on 13 August on Mutawassit TV that read an overthrow was under way. However, party Vice President Walid Bennani later said: "There's no coup d'etat in Tunisia. There’s an opposition party that wants to dissolve the government. The opposition also still wants to repeat the Egyptian scenario. That can't happen. There is no option [for an alternative to rise to] power. There's no resemblance between the two cases." Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi agreed to work with the Tunisian General Labour Union to find a compromise solution to the political impasse. He said that this was "a starting point for national dialogue;" however he rejected calls for Ali Laarayedh's government to resign saying that "the coalition government will not resign and will continue its duties until national dialogue reaches a consensus agreement that guarantees the completion of the democratic transition and the organisation of free and fair elections."

The UGTT's leader, Hussein Abbassi, announced that an agreement had been reached between the ruling and opposition parties for the incumbent prime minister to resign at the end of 2013 and allow for an interim government, a new constitution to be written and a new election is held. The caretaker prime minister will be Mehdi Jomaa.

Campaigning

The Ennada party has declined to officially endorse a presidential candidate. El Binaa El Watany, the Democratic Current, the Construction and Reform Party, Binaa Maghrebin, the National Movement for Justice and Development, and the Congress for the Republic have announced support for Moncef Marzouki. The Afek Tounes party has declared that it backs Beji Caid el Sebsi for the presidency. The Al-Aman party has endorsed Ahmed Nejib Chebbi’s candidacy. Tounes Baytouna has expressed support for Marzouki's campaign.

Results

In the first round, Beji Caid Essebsi and Moncef Marzouki gained the most votes (39% and 33%, respectively), making it to the runoff. Hamma Hammami came in a distant third at 8%.

Essebsi was the top candidate in most of the governorates in northern Tunisia, with Marzouki receiving the most number of votes in Tunisia's southern governorates. Hammami won a plurality of the votes in Siliana Governorate.

After the run-off polls closed on the night of 21 December 2014, Essebsi claimed victory on local television, and said that he dedicated his win to "the martyrs of Tunisia". The following day, results of the election showed that Essebsi beat his rival Moncef Marzouki by 55.68% of the vote, despite initial claims by Marzouki's spokesman that Essebsi's claim of victory was "without foundation". Marzouki himself said that Essebsi's claim was "undemocratic", but did not comment following the official results. However, his campaign's Facebook page congratulated Essebsi. The Associated Press said that the election was free and fair with 60% of voters participating, which was less than the first round's 70%.

In the capital Tunis, several hundred Essebsi supporters gathered around the Nidaa Tounes headquarters to celebrate his victory, waving national flags, singing and honking car horns. However, riots broke out in the southern city of El Hamma. Police used teargas to disperse many who came out to protest his victory because he was part of the old Ben Ali regime. The protesters were reported by Reuters to have burned tires while shops were closed, chanting "No to the old regime". Protesters also set fire to a Nidaa Tounes office in Tataouine.

References

Tunisian presidential election, 2014 Wikipedia


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