Final results give President Ben Ali a fifth term

Final vote results released on Monday granted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the 73-year-old who has run Tunisia for more than two decades, a fifth term with almost 90 percent of the vote.


Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has been re-elected with a landslide 89.62% of the vote, the country’s Interior Ministry announced Monday. The margin of victory is one that most democratic political leaders can only dream of achieving, and this has been cited by rights groups as evidence of the deeply flawed nature of the election.

Ben Ali’s re-election comes as no surprise to international observers and rights groups. In the lead-up to Sunday’s poll, the debate had instead focused on the percentage of votes the Tunisian strongman would officially receive.

Reporting from the Tunisian capital, Tunis, FRANCE 24’s Melissa Bell noted that the 2009 election gave Ben Ali his smallest margin of victory since he first came to power in 1987. “This election was the first time he secured under 90% of the vote,” said Bell.

In his first three elections, Ben Ali won over 99% of the vote. In the 2004 presidential election, the margin dropped to 94.4%.

Among the other candidates for the post, Ahmed Brahim, the only real opposition figure, won just 1.57% of the vote.

In the parliamentary polls, which were also held on Sunday, Ben Ali's ruling RCD party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally, won 161 of the 214 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Ben Ali was elected with a mandate to address Tunisia’s 14% unemployment rate and on a promise to lift the North African country out of the rank of “developing nations.”

On the surface, Tunisia is one of the most economically successful North African states, with a vibrant tourism industry, coupled with a creditable record on gender rights.  Tunisia has also been a dependable partner in the global fight against Islamist terrorism.

But in a recent report, Amnesty International found that, “Beneath the façade, there is an entrenched climate of repression in which political parties opposed to the government remain banned or critically hamstrung by restrictions”. The rights group’s website was inaccessible in Tunisia in the run-up to Sunday’s election.

‘Parody of an election’

This view is supported by Maya Jribi, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in Tunisia. Jribi’s party decided to boycott Sunday’s poll, maintaining that "to take part would mean sanctioning this parody of an election."

The Tunisian president however has denied criticisms about the democratic credentials of the polls.

Bell reports that in a TV address before the vote, Ben Ali pledged to “pursue those who made allegations about the political system without evidence.”

Reporting from Tunis, Bell said it was “very hard to get a fair and accurate picture” of how free and fair the elections were as international observers that were not from “friend or brother countries” were not allowed to monitor the election.

Ben Ali became prime minister of Tunisia in 1987. In a matter of weeks, he succeeded in ousting former President Habib Bourguiba, by arranging for him to be declared senile and unfit to rule. He has ruled the country ever since.

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