Tunisians have just voted on their new parliament. Next Sunday, they will go to the polls to elect their new president. Some 27 candidates, ranging from economists to socialists, are running, including two former ministers from the Ben Ali era.
The front-runner is Beji Caid Essebsi, who first served as a minister under former president Habib Bourguiba in the 1960s. His Nidaa Tounes party won the highest number of seats in last month’s legislative election, and many see his years of experience and promises of strong leadership as valuable attributes. But others are concerned at his advanced age.
“We want Tunisia to be for all people. People have asked us to negotiate with all political players. We have a framework to respect the constitution,” Essebsi said.
Another leading contender is current president Moncef Marzouki, who is seeking re-election. Marzouki’s party didn’t do as well in the legislative election, but he can likely count on the support of many Ennahdha voters. Ennahdha, the Islamist party that scored second in the parliamentary election, is not fielding any candidates.
This is the liveliest presidential campaign in Tunisian history. In every other election since independence, there’s only been one real candidate. Besides this year’s 27 candidates, another big difference compared to the past is a new political system where the president is no longer all-powerful.
“The political system in Tunisia favors the parliament, because according to the new constitution, we now live under a semi-presidential and semi-parliamentary system,” said Alaya Allant, a political analyst.
If there’s no outright winner in next Sunday’s vote, there will be a second round of voting between the two leading candidates in December.
CCTV America’s Yasmine Ryan reports from Tunis.