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.