Ben Ali prepares for victory

To the surprise of nobody, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali has 
formally declared his candidacy in Tunisia’s presidential election on October 25. This will give him another five-year term, taking him up to the age of 77.

In 2004, he secured more than 94% of the vote against three other candidates in contest that one Tunisian dissident described as resembling “a race between a sports car and a wheelchair”.

Ben Ali filed his nomination papers a day after Nejib Chebbi of the Progressive Democratic Party announced that he was 
pulling out because of “the absence of minimal conditions of freedom, of honesty and transparency” in the campaign.

In any case, Chebbi’s candidacy – if he had pressed ahead – would have been ruled illegal, since the revised election law says presidential contenders must be the secretary-general of a recognised party. The PDP is recognised but Chebbi is no longer its secretary-general.

The other likely candidates are Mohammed Bouchiha of the People's Unity Party (PUP), Ahmed Brahim of the Ettajdid Movement, and Ahmed Innoubli of the Unionist Democratic Union.

Last month Brahim accused the authorities of impeding distribution of his party’s newspaper and obstructing some of its other activities. He said the party had to cancel three meetings in a single week after the authorities pressurised hotels in Tunis to prevent them from renting space.

Meanwhile, President Ben Ali has set up a National Observatory for Elections which will supposedly ensure “good conduct” in the electoral process. The 20 men and seven women appointed to the Observatory are said to be either members of the ruling party or close to it.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 30 August 2009.