TUNIS: Tunisia’s electoral commission said on Wednesday it had approved 26 candidates including two women for next month’s presidential election and had rejected 71 other applicants. The Sept. 15 vote follows the death of Beji Caid Essebsi, the first president to be democratically elected in Tunisia after the popular uprising of 2011. Essebsi died last month at the age of 92. It will be the third free election in Tunisia since that uprising.
Among candidates approved for the presidential race are Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, former Premier Mehdi Jomaa, the vice president of the moderate Ennahda Movement, Abdel Fattah Mourou and Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi.
Zbidi resigned from his post after submitting his candidacy to run for the presidential elections on Aug. 7.
Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and Nabil Karoui, businessman and owner of the private channel Nessma TV, will also join the race.
The two women candidates approved are former Tourism Minister Salma Loumi and Abir Moussi, a staunch supporter of veteran leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali who was ousted in the 2011 uprising.
Tunisia’s president controls foreign and defense policy, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by Parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.
The Independent High Electoral Authority (ISIE) received 29 applications on Aug. 2 over the first five days from the beginning of the race and 11 applications on the sixth day.
Government spokesman Iyad Dahmani confirmed in a press statement that Chahed’s candidacy does not necessarily mean he must resign from his current post.
Dahmani pointed out that the premier will delegate his powers to a minister in the same government.
“It is impossible to form a government during this sensitive period, which is full of political deadlines,” he stressed.
The spokesman accused supporters of Chahed’s resignation of “attempting to overthrow the entire government and disrupt the presidential and parliamentary elections” in the country.
“Anyone who is seeking my resignation is in fact aiming to delay the elections and my resignation means the resignation of the government,” Chahed said.
Local political sources have indicated that Chahed will delegate Kamel Morjane, former head of the Initiative Party that has fully merged with Tahya Tounes.
They explained that his move aims at satisfying those who have disapproved the unified electoral lists, whose members will run in the parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct. 6.