Your Middle East
Last updated: 23 November, 2014

Tunisia, here is your future President…

Today Tunisians will chose which Presidential candidate they would like to see lead the small North African nation’s first five years as a democracy. But what are the options? Your Middle East guides you through the list.

Since the 1956 independence the country has seen only two Presidents, Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. But on November 23, Tunisians hit the polls for a second time this year to elect a President for the next five years.

Here’s a short guide to some of the favourites…

Beji Caid Essebsi 

The election’s frontrunner is the 87-year-old (turning 88 three days after the elections) leader of secular-leaning political party Nidaa Tounes, which gained the majority of votes in the Parliamentary elections on October 26.

Essebsi with Erdogan.

Essebsi is a veteran politician who acted under both Bourguiba and Ben Ali. His leadership style is a copy of Bourguiba with political rhetoric such as “state security” and restoring Tunisian pride.

“Authoritarian!” cry some critics. “Old!” exclaim others. But his many supporters are hoping he will be the firm leader the country needs to bring the economy and security situation back on track.

Moncef Marzouki

The opposite of Essebsi, and his greatest opponent, is the former human rights activist and current interim President Marzouki. Mostly known in Tunisian media for not wearing a tie, and by critics described as a clown, Marzouki is a symbol of the revolution and is believed to receive the support of Ennahda members even though the moderate Islamist party has referred from supporting any of the candidates officially.

Marzouki is also believed to be one of the most popular candidates among the youth.


Hamma Hammami

The leftist political veteran dissident is the leader of the Popular Front, which is a coalition of leftist parties. Hammami is a former political prisoner who has the support of the working class and poorer sections of society. When in Gafsa he allegedly promised to reduce the President’s salary.

Smart campaign strategy has paid off and Hammami is now able to challenge both Essebsi and Marzouki.

Slim Riahi

The wealthy businessman (Libyan oil money) and leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Union has been compared to Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi because of his wealth and media influence, owning TV channel Ettounsiya. He is also the owner of football team Club Africain and has promised to create a lot of jobs if elected President.

Kalthoum Kannou

The only female Presidential candidate, Kannou, a long-time and outspoken judge is running as an independent candidate. She was a stark opponent of Ben Ali and is perhaps most known for issuing an arrest warrant of Ben Ali’s nephew Moez Trabelsi.

Her presidential campaign slogan – Yes, we Kannou – is a play with American President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, Yes, we can. 


Mustapha Ben Jaafar

Ben Jaafar is the secretary general of the center-left party Ettakatol, which he founded in 1994. His party joined Ennahda and CPR after the 2011 election and formed the governing coalition, the Troika.

Ben Jaafar ran already in the elections 2009 against Ben Ali arguing that not participating would be equal to giving up. He is a strong opponent of former Ben Ali politicians returning to the political scene.

If none of the candidates receives the majority of votes in the first round of elections there will be a runoff on December 28 between the two top candidates.