Tunisia`s Ben Ali set for 5th term as President
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Last Updated: Saturday, October 24, 2009, 21:59
Tunis: Tunisia's voters braced for presidential and legislative elections expected to grant another landslide victory to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Sunday despite timid measures by authorities to let the nascent opposition have its say.

Ben Ali, 72, is running for a fifth, 5-year term, after taking power in a bloodless palace coup in 1987 that authorities dub "The Change." He was last re-elected in 2004 with more than 94 percent of votes, a drop from his previous victories, which oscillated between 99.2 and 99.7 percent.

"To say there is very, very, very little suspense about his re-election is a euphemism," said Hatem, a shopkeeper in central Tunis who only gave his first name because he didn't want to appear criticising the country's leadership.

Despite criticism by human rights groups, many Tunisian voters see continuity as a good thing in this Mediterranean tourist haven, a strong diplomatic and business ally of the United States and Europe and a relatively secular, moderate player in the Arab world.

Under the current constitution, it is the last time Ben Ali can run for president, because the age limit is set at 75.

Ben Ali faces three, low-profile opponents. He is backed by virtually every labour union and his party Constitutional and Democratic Rally or RCD, which has been continuously in power since Tunisia's independence from France in 1956.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, October 24, 2009, 21:59

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