Tunisian presidential elections will be a test for post-Arab Spring democracy as campaigning officially begins today

Two weeks of campaigning will officially begin today in Tunisia ahead of the presidential election scheduled for September 15. Originally

tunisia elections

Photo: Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu

Two weeks of campaigning will officially begin today in Tunisia ahead of the presidential election scheduled for September 15.

Originally slated for November, the electoral authorities brought forward the date following the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi on July 25.

There are two rival electoral blocs. Those defending the post-Arab Spring democratic order, led by Abdelfattah Mourou from the moderate Islamist Ennahda party which dominates parliament. Opposing them are those with links to the autocratic regime of former dictator Zine El Abadine Ben Ali, chief amongst them is Abir Moussi, staunch secularist leader of the group formed from the remnants of Ben Ali’s party.

The outcome is uncertain but the winner will set the scene for the parliamentary elections on October 6. A president with strong parliamentary support, like Mourou, may be powerful enough to enact constitutional changes to cement Ennahda’s parliamentary dominance. This would frighten Ennahda’s left-wing opponents and expect them to form alliances with pro-Ben Ali parties. Should Moussi win, she seeks to ban all religious-based parties like Ennahda on the pretext of fighting Islamist terrorism. She would also re-open the “unfair” court cases which found Ben Ali guilty of corruption and deaths from police brutality. Both policies would likely cause massive nation-wide demonstrations and political instability not seen since the Arab Spring.