Tunisian minister submits bid to run for president

Tunisian Minister of Defense Abdelkarim Zbidi submits his candidacy for the presidential elections in Tunis, Tunisia August 7, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 07 August 2019

Tunisian minister submits bid to run for president

  • Defense Minister Zbidi is considered by many to be above party politics

TUNIS: Tunisian Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi submitted his candidacy for a presidential election on Sept. 15 as an independent on Wednesday and said he would resign from government.

Zbidi, 69, who has the support of secular parties including Nidaa Tounes and Afek Tounes, is likely to emerge as one of the frontrunners in the election, which was called early after the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi last month.

Zbidi, a technocrat and medical doctor by training, is considered by many to be above the party politics and infighting that has held back badly-needed economic reforms in Tunisia in recent years.

He looks set as the most serious rival to Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who will run as a candidate for the liberal Tahya Tounes Party.

After Ben Ali’s overthrow in 2011, Zbidi was appointed defense minister until he quit in March 2013 while serving in a Cabinet led by Ennahda. In 2017, Chahed re-appointed Zbidi as defense minister.

Tunisia’s president controls foreign and defense policy, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by Parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.

Tunisia’s biggest political party Ennahda Movement nominated its vice President Abdel Fattah Mourou as a candidate on Wednesday. He is the first presidential nominee from the moderate party since Tunisia transitioned to democracy after the 2011 uprising.

“The party’s advisory council has voted by a majority of 98 votes in favor of Abdel Fattah Mourou’s candidacy at the presidential election,” Ennahda said in a statement.

Mourou, 71, was appointed interim parliamentary speaker following the death of President Essebsi.

The Ennahda politician had previously served as the deputy speaker, and changed roles after the then parliamentary head Mohamed Ennaceur stepped up as interim president.

The party’s announcement marks “the first time in its history that the movement puts forward a candidate for the presidential elections,” spokesman Imed Khmiri said.

Ennahda won the first polls after the 2011 uprising which ousted President Zine El-Abidine, and is currently the largest party in Parliament.

Mourou is known as a moderate and is one of the founding members of Ennahda, which was launched in 1981.

Presidential hopefuls have until Aug. 9 to register, ahead of the election on Sept. 15.

So far 27 people have submitted their candidacy to the electoral commission, including media magnate Nabil Karoui.

He was charged with money laundering in July, after stating his intention to stand in the polls.

Karoui is a fierce rival of Prime Minister Chahed, who is standing in the presidential vote with his Tahia Tounes party.

They have been joined in the race by Abir Moussi, who heads a group formed from the remnants of Ben Ali’s ruling party.


Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

HIGHLIGHT

Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 

 

Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.