Tunisia electoral commission approves 26 presidential candidates

Nabil Baffoun (R), Tunisia’s head of Independent High Authority for elections (ISIE), attends a press conference in Tunis on August 14, 2019. Twenty-six candidacies to the Tunisian presidential election of September 15 have been validated and 71 rejected, after a preliminary examination of the applications, announced the election authority (ISIE). (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2019

Tunisia electoral commission approves 26 presidential candidates

  • Tunisia’s electoral commission approved 26 candidates, including 2 women, and rejected 71 others
  • The Sept. 15 vote follows the death of Beji Caid Essebsi, the country's first democratically-elected president

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.

Women candidates
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.

FASTFACT

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. It will be the third free election in Tunisia since that uprising.

“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.


Amid turmoil, Lebanese Forces ministers quit coalition government

Updated 20 October 2019

Amid turmoil, Lebanese Forces ministers quit coalition government

  • The Lebanese Forces party has four ministers in the Hariri-led ruling coalition
  • Protesters in Beirut, Jounieh, Tripoli and Tyre demand that others remaining in power also quit

BEIRUT: Lebanon's "strong republic" bloc quit the coalition government on Saturday as tens of thousands of people took to the streets for a third day of protests against tax increases and alleged official corruption.
Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese forces party, said his group was resigning from the government ahead of the 72-hour deadline that Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave to partners in power to help make his reform programs work.
Geagea's Christian party has four ministers in the coalition government, namely: Ghassan Hasbani, Kamil Abu Suleiman, Richard Qayomjian and May Chidiac.
"Since people have lost confidence in the political class, and since the people in the street represent all segments of society and because all components of the government does not want serious and actual reform, we were the first party to act with transparency and when discussing the 2020 budget, we demanded a basket of immediate reforms, but we did not feel the seriousness required," Geagea told a late night press conference that extended into the early hours of Sunday.
“We are now convinced that the government is unable to take the necessary steps to save the situation,” said Geagea. “Therefore, the bloc decided to ask its ministers to resign from the government.”
He denied "any talk of an agreement with Prime Minister Hariri regarding the resignation of ministers."
Geagea's announcement was welcomed by the protesters, who are still sit in yards in Beirut, Jounieh, Tripoli and Tyre. They demanded the resignation of the remaining in power.

'Sweeping overhaul needed'
The protesters took to the streets despite calls for calm from politicians and dozens of arrests on Friday. Many waved billowing Lebanese flags and insisted the protests should remain peaceful and non-sectarian.
The demonstrators are demanding a sweeping overhaul of Lebanon’s political system, citing grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.
They have blocked main roads and threatened to topple the country’s fragile coalition government.
Most Lebanese politicians have uncharacteristically admitted the demonstrations are spontaneous, rather than blaming outside influences.
Demonstrators in Beirut celebrated the news of the coalition party’s resignation, calling on other blocs to leave the government. In Tripoli, they let off fireworks.
“I am thinking maybe it’s better all the government resign,” said one protester, 24-year-old Ali. “I am thinking maybe it’s better to go to another election as people already woke up.”
The army on Saturday called on protesters to “express themselves peacefully without harming public and private property.”
Saturday evening, thousands were packed for a third straight night into the Riyadh Al-Solh Square in central Beirut, despite security forces having used tear gas and water cannons to disperse similar crowds a day before.

AI slams 'use of excessive force'
Amnesty International said the security forces’ reaction was excessive, pointing out that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful.
“The intention was clearly to prevent protesters gathering — in a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly,” it said.
Small groups of protesters have also damaged shop fronts and blocked roads by burning tires and other obstacles.
The Internal Security Forces said 70 arrests were made Friday on accusations of theft and arson.
But all of those held at the main police barracks were released Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said.
The demonstrations first erupted on Thursday, sparked by a proposed 20 US-cent tax on calls via messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
Such calls are the main method of communication for many Lebanese and, despite the government’s swift abandonment of the tax, the demonstrations quickly swelled into the largest in years.
Prime Minister Hariri has given his deeply divided coalition until Monday evening to give back a reform package aimed at shoring up the government’s finances and securing desperately needed economic assistance from donors.
He held a series of meetings Saturday regarding the situation, NNA said.
Hariri’s political rival, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, told protesters Saturday their “message was heard loudly.”
But he warned against demanding the resignation of the government — saying it could take a long time to form a new one and solve the crisis.
The current unity government has the backing of most Lebanese political parties, including Hezbollah.

Protesters attacked in Tyre
In the southern port city of Tyre, supporters of Shia politician and speaker of parliament Nabih Berri attacked protesters Saturday, a witness said, a day after demonstrators had accused him of corruption.
His Amal political party condemned the attack and called for an investigation.
More than a quarter of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
Many of the country’s senior politicians came to prominence during the country’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.
The promised austerity moves are essential if Lebanon is to unlock $11 billion in economic assistance pledged by international donors last year.
Growth has plummeted in recent years, with political deadlock compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — more than 150 percent of gross domestic product — according to the finance ministry.

(With AFP)