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Wed, 20 Nov 2019 16:45 GMT

Tunisia Votes for Presidential Election


7Dnews London

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 02:11 GMT

Tunisians flooded the polls early morning on October 13th to choose their president. The contest has been limited down to two candidates, media tycoon Nabil Karoui, 56, who has been recently released from jail, and retired law professor Kais Saied, 61.

Recently, Tunisia has been suffering from high rates of inflation, which reached 6.8%, as well as unemployment, which stands at 15%. Karoui's supporters believe he is the best choice for solving Tunisia's problems because he is professionally successful and conservative. Saied's followers consider him to be a humble candidate who has principles and would conduct important electoral reforms.

Kouri's agenda focuses on economic liberalisation and fighting poverty, while Saied seeks to reform the country's parliamentary system in favour of a decentralised democratic model. He is socially conservative and opposes a law currently under discussion that would distribute inheritances equally between men and women.

Voting at polling stations began early morning and is expected to end by 6pm according to Tunisia's local time. The results will be announced days afterwards. This presidential election is considered the second free poll since the Arab Spring in 2011, and follows the death of late president Beji Caid Essebsi in July.

The runoff outcome is yet uncertain, with a ban on opinion polls, but Karoui received a boost after his newly-formed party, Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia), came second in legislative elections last week. In the first round of elections, which took place in mid-September, Saied won 18.4% of votes, while Karoui followed with 15.6%.

Karoui considers himself as a candidate for the poor, but has spent most of his campaign imprisoned on money-laundering and tax-evasion charges. He was released following his fourth appeal in court after threatening to contest the results.

Tunisia has emerged from the state of chaos which followed the 2011 revolution, after which Islamist and secularist forces struggled to take over the country's ruling regime. Yet the efforts of civil society groups and political elders yielded an improbable power-sharing agreement in 2016, according to The Guardian. The agreement has brought stability, but also may have hindered reforms which might have helped limit corruption.

Tunisians desperately seek reforms for their suffering economy. However, presidential power is fairly limited, and the president has less direct control over policy than the Prime Minister. The significant reforms Saied advocates would require a two-thirds majority in parliament that will be difficult to build.