Polls open in Presidential election
Polls have opened in the Presidential election in Tunisia. The approximately 4,500 polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m. with around 5.2 million voters eligible to attend and vote. However, in 50 localities close to the Algerian border where terrorists are active the polling stations will open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. local time.
Polling stations abroad opened on 21st November for the 382,235 Tunisians registered overseas.
From an original 67 candidates who submitted nominations 27 were cleared to stand and will appear on the ballot paper, but since then a further five candidates have dropped out of the race.
The five candidates who have withdrawn from the race are Abderrahim Zouari (Destourian Movement), Mohamed Hamdi (Democratic Alliance), Abderraouf Ayadi (Wafa Movement) and Independents Noureddine Hached and Mustapha Kamel Nabli.
In reality there are two likely candidates who will get most of the vote. Beji Caid Essebsi, the candidate of the secular Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia) which emerged as the surprise winner of the general election on 26th October is the candidate most likely to win.
The other candidate expected to take the election to a second round runoff on 28th December is the incumbent interim President, Moncef Marzouki. He is standing on behalf of the centre-left Congress for the Republic (CPR) but is also likely to gather in votes from the Islamist Ennahda Movement which decided not to put up a presidential candidate. They have not endorsed a candidate but Marzouki is most likely to gather in their votes from people who believe that Nidaa Tounes is the old regime returning in another form. Ennahda dominated the previous parliament and was expected to win the general election, but came a surprise second.
One other candidate, Hamma Hammami, the leader of the left-wing Popular Front coalition has also been making headway during the election and might benefit from a late surge of support, particularly in the poorer south.
The election is being held under the new 2014 constitution and this is their first vote for a new President after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011, kicking off the so called “Arab Spring”. Under the new system the President will have limited powers and executive control will rest with parliament.