Tunisians go to the polls tomorrow

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Tunisians go to the polls tomorrow

TUNISIANS are coming to the presidential elections tomorrow, which are seen as crucial to continue the democratic transition and address the problems of social unrest, economic slowdown and militants' attacks.

The election is held two months ahead of schedule for the death of the first democratically-elected President of Bedgi, Kaid Esebsi, who has been a factor of stability in the country.

7.2 million people have the right to vote, but a low turnout is expected due to public distrust of the political system. It has been seen in a series of protests and strikes in recent years, with workers in a range of sectors seeking higher wages and better working conditions.

Young people in the city of Sidi Buzid, the cradle of the 2011 Arab uprising that ousted dictator Zin Abidin Ben Ali, have no hope of change.

“This election is meaningless, nothing will change,” says jobless 27-year-old Hafez al-Hidori. “We have lost hope because of the government's poor performance. Politicians have no real will to implement the reform.”

The unemployment rate is 15.3 percent

The North African country is struggling with a slowing economy and is under pressure from international lenders, especially the IMF, to implement drastic reforms to curb fiscal and trade deficits and inflation.

26 candidates, Islamists, leftists and supporters of the old regime are running for president.

The Islamist movement Enahda, one of the leading parties in the Tunisian parliament, is first to point out its candidate – the vice president of the movement, 71-year-old Abdelfatah Moru.

Former Prime Minister Yousef Shahid, who is one of the youngest candidates at 43, is also competing. He is backed by the Tahja Tunes Party, which he founded himself last year after his split with Essebi.

The party's past president, Nida Tunes, supports Defense Minister Abdelkar Zbidi, although he formally competes as an independent candidate.

Zbidia is credited with playing an important role in keeping Tunisia stable in the months when Asebsi was ill.

Who are the candidates?

Prominent candidate Abir Musi is hopeful of what she calls a “silent majority” that shares her anti-Islamist views. Opponents accuse her of loyalty to autocrat Ben Ali. She wants to change the constitution to give the president greater powers.

One of the leading candidates is wealthy entrepreneur and media mogul Nabil Karui, who was arrested last month on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. Although he is in prison, the law does not prohibit him from competing in elections.

Tunisia is considered the only successful democratic story of the Arab Spring of 2010 and 2011, so the current election is an exam for all candidates to persuade the Tunisians to vote instead of on the streets.

Tunisians go to the polls tomorrow

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