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Tunisians Elect President For First Time

Published by The Nation on Mon, 24 Nov 2014

In just the third free election since the early 2011 revolution in Tunisia that ended the 10 year regime of autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians will on Sunday vote for a new president.A total of 27 candidates are vying for office but a race is emerging between a rights activist who says the election is a chance to stop the return of old-regime stalwarts and a veteran ex-Ben Ali official.According to statistics from the Tunisian electoral commission, out of the 5.2 million citizens who are eligible to cast ballot in the presidential election, 1.2 million registered voters are concentrated in capital Tunis and the provinces of Manouba, Ariana and Ben Arous.Meanwhile, next to this areas are the southeastern Sfax 1 and 2 electoral districts with some 441,000 registered voters, while the eastern Nabeul 1 and 2 districts have a combined 370,000 voters.However, just after about three years after the end of Ben Alis one-party rule, Tunisia has become a model of transition for the region by adopting a new constitution and avoiding the turmoil facing its neighbours.The election is an aftermath of a general election in October when the main secular Nidaa Tounes party won the most seats in the parliament, besting the Islamist party Ennahda that won the first free poll in 2011.Among the 27 presidential candidates, two candidates appear to be the frontrunners in the upcoming pollsinterim President Moncef Marzouki, who was voted into office a few months after Ben Alis ouster by members of the elected Constituent Assembly, and Beji Caid Essebsi, who served as parliament speaker under Ben Ali.Lead by Essebsi, the Nidaa Tounes Party clinched the most seats by a single party in last months parliamentary polls, winning 86 seats. Nidaas victory knocked Ennahda into second place with 69 seats, according to definitive official results.With about 70% turnout of registered voters, the Free Patriotic Union (UPL), led by entrepreneur Slim Riahi, emerged third with 16 seats in the election to the 217-member parliament while the leftist coalition Popular Front coalition took 15, while another 15 parties divided up the balance.]]>
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