- Twenty-six candidates, including two women, are running for office.
- If no candidate gets a majority in the first round, the two candidates with the most votes will go to a decisive second round.
- Tunisia has been hailed as the only democracy born of the "Arab Spring" rebellion.
Tunisia is ready to hold its second free presidential election since the 2011 revolution, which overthrew former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and sparked the Arab Spring. Elections have been planned since November last year, following the death of Beji Caid Essebsi, the first democratically elected president.
Twenty-six candidates, including two women, are running for office. This election is widely seen as a test for one of the youngest democracies in the world. Essebsi won the first free presidential election in Tunisia in 2014 and was seen as instrumental in maintaining stability in the country during nearly five years of his rule.
At the age of 92, he was the oldest president in the world at the time of his death. Essebsi had previously made it clear that he did not plan to run again. The Speaker of Tunisia’s Parliament, Mohamed Ennaceur, currently acts as interim president.
How is the election held in Tunisia?
A candidate needs a majority of the votes to win the election. If no candidate gets a majority in the first round, the two candidates with the most votes will go to a decisive second round. The winning candidate becomes president for a five-year term.
The constitution states that the Tunisian President is responsible for national defense, foreign policy, and security. The Prime Minister, who is elected by Parliament, is in charge of other portfolios. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in October.
Why is this election important?
Tunisia has been hailed as the only democracy born of the “Arab Spring” rebellion, which began in Tunisia before it spread to the Middle East and North Africa. This month’s presidential debates were the first to be broadcast on television— a program hailed as a sign of the success of the democratic transition.
However, not everything went smoothly. In recent years, Tunisia has felt economic problems and attacks by Islamists, as well as seemingly never-ending unemployment. In 2018, citizens throughout the country took to the streets to protest against the government’s austerity policy. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed told Reuters that economic opportunity had to improve “if Tunisia wanted to join the ranks of a strong democracy.”
Widespread discontent with economic hardship, decades of authoritarian rule, and corruption erupted into mass demonstrations in December 2010 after a street vendor set himself on fire when officials confiscated his cart. The riots led to the overthrow of President Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years, in 2011.
Three years later, the Tunisian parliament approved a new constitution, which detailed how the new democracy would be implemented. The text was hailed by the United Nations as a “milestone.” Important aspects include recognition of equality between men and women, guarantees of personal freedom, and division of power between the president and prime minister.