Turnout of over 75 per cent in Tunisia’s general election

Some 5 million Tunisians were called to the polls in presidential and parliamentary elections Sunday that are widely expected to give veteran President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali a fifth term.

One major opposition party called a boycott of the polls in which Ben Ali, 73, is running against three little-known presidential candidates. He has ruled the North African country for the past 22 years.

By Sunday afternoon, authorities said voter turnout was at over 75 per cent. The voting age was lowered from 20 to 18, with polling stations open between 8 am and 6 pm (0700 to 1700 GMT).

Results are expected on Monday.

Ahead of the elections, the major opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) announced plans to boycott the poll, charging that the election process was being manipulated. The party was blocked from competing in 17 districts after authorities ruled its applications ineligible.

‘I’ve at least managed to allow a voice other than that of the government to be heard, which is enough for me,’ said Ahmed Ibrahim of the former communist opposition Ettajid party.

Another key opposition figure withdrew his candidacy just weeks before the election in protest against the conditions surrounding the election.

Ben Ali’s election promises include fighting unemployment and increasing the per capita income by 40 per cent. He also vowed to pursue democracy and provide stronger state support for political parties and the media in future.

Under the current constitution, a fresh term would be his last, as the maximum age for a presidential candidate is 75.

Tunisia is viewed as one of the quietest and most stable in the Arab world, with it economy currently growing 3 per cent annually.

But critics point to the political repressions and human rights violations in the country, particularly against opposition groups.

deutsche presse agentur


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