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El-Sebsi’s candidacy causes controversy in Tunisia

Some political parties in Tunisia expressed their great anger at the nomination of the Nedaa Tounes Party leader Beji Caid El-Sebsi for the presidential elections scheduled to be held on November 23.

El-Sebsi, 89, submitted his candidacy to the Election Commission yesterday amid a large crowd of supporters who chanted “Oh Beji… Oh Beji” in support of his nomination in the presidential elections.

However, some political parties made sharp criticisms of him after submitting his candidacy on the grounds that he is too old and that his health condition is deteriorating, and that he won’t be able to bear the burdens of a state that needs a strong man to manage its affairs.

The leader of the Democratic Trend Party Hichem Ben Jemaa told Al-Jazeera.net that El-Sebsi is “a veteran who is almost 90 years old, and his mental faculties and health no longer allow him to bear any responsibilities.”

The leader of the Wafa Movement Abderraouf Ayadi agreed and told Al-Jazeera.net that El-Sebsi no longer has any role or political future in the country due to his age and poor health.

The people’s word

Islamic Al-Nahda Movement official Ajmi Lourimi said the new constitution did not specify an age limit for nomination, but he said that the final word will be up to the people, who will chose who they deem worthy of the presidency.

However, Ayadi said that lifting some of the restrictions on the legislative and presidential candidates, such as not determining an age limit or cancelling the political isolation law applied to some of the officials from the former regime “was done under foreign pressures”.

He also stressed that the new constitution, which was approved earlier this year, includes “a number of political deals from which the former regime benefitted as a result of interventions by foreign countries which influenced the course of the transition”.

However, Lourimi stressed that his party, which has the majority of the seats in the Constituent Assembly (parliament), “refused to provide any excuse for anyone to say they were the victim of exclusion or oppression”.

He added that Al-Nahda movement favoured the Tunisian people deciding their fate themselves in the elections by means of the ballot box, noting that the people will vote for the best candidate based on their programmes and commitment to the goals of the revolution.

Democratic Trend Party leader Hichem Ben Jemaa said El-Sebsi has no chance of winning because “he is one of the former regime’s officials and he is not democratic and doesn’t believe in the principles of the revolution”.

The leader of the Wafa Movement Abderraouf Ayadi shared this opinion, adding that El-Sebsi “will have no place in a revolution carried out by the youth against the former regime, despite the foreign political support he is receiving.”

Ungratefulness

Meanwhile, the official in the Call for Tunisia party Abdelaziz Kotti rejected these criticisms, considering them “ungrateful for the all that El-Sebsi gave to the country after peacefully and civilly handing over authority after the previous elections”.

El-Sebsi was appointed prime minister in February 2011 and during his time in office, the first post-revolution elections were held. After these elections, he handed over authority to the Ennahda movement which won the Constituent Assembly elections at the time.

Kotti also added to Al-Jazeera.net that “El-Sebsi should be given credit for founding the Call for Tunisia party, which created a balance in the political scene and saved the country from Ennahda’s domination over the state.”

He stressed that the movement had expressed its desire for El-Sebsi’s nomination “because he is a highly qualified statesman able to effectively manage the country, in addition to the fact that he has international influence and the ability to bring in foreign aid”.

He concluded by saying that all the opinion polls in Tunisia suggest that El-Sebsi is a favourite to win the presidential elections.

El-Sebsi held many ministerial positions during the late President Habib Bourguiba’s rule and was President of the Chamber of Deputies during the rule of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali between 1990 and 1991.

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