Tunisia approves 26 candidates for presidential election

The vote was brought forward to September 15 after the death Beji Caid Essebsi last month.

Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki submits his candidacy for the presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia August 7, 2019. Picture taken August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
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Twenty-six candidates including two women have been approved for Tunisia’s upcoming presidential election next month, the commission overseeing the vote said on Wednesday.

The body rejected the application of 71 other hopefuls wanting to run for the country’s top office in the September 15 vote.

Elections were brought forward following the death of 92-year old Beji Caid Essebsi last month. He was the country’s first democratically elected president and took office a mass uprising removed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 22 years.

It will be the third free election in Tunisia since the 2011 uprising removed Mr Ben Ali.

Tunisia was the spark for the Arab uprising revolts that toppled a number of longtime leaders around North Africa and the Middle East.

Among candidates approved for the presidential race are Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, former premier Mehdi Jomaa, the vice-president of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, Abdel Fattah Mourou, and Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi.

Former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and Nabil Karoui, businessman and owner of the private channel Nessma TV, will also join the race.

The two women candidates approved are former tourism minister Salma Loumi and Abir Moussi, a staunch supporter of Mr Ben Ali.

Tunisia’s president controls foreign and defence policy, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.

Almost 100 candidates made applications for the election September 15 however political experts believe only a handful will have a viable chance of getting elected. Mr Chahed, Mr Karoui and law professor Kaid Saied are leading the opinion polls.

Mr Mourou too will likely put up a strong challenge as the first candidate Ennahda has fielded in a presidential election.

Mr Chahed, leader of the secular Tahya Tounes party, is likely to struggle in the elections despite his high profile. His campaign has to push back against the fact that many see him as one of the men who oversaw years of economic stagnation and a deteriorating currency after being appointed in 2016.