Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, 68, has been re-elected with 94.5% of the votes, for a fourth tenure of five years. Two opposition figures, Mohamed Bouchiha, of the Popular Unity party and Mounir Béji of the Social Liberal party, received 3.78% and O.79% respectively each in the elections held on Sunday.
The official results were as follow: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: 4,204,292 votes (94.49 %), Mohamed Bouchiha: 167,986 (3.78 %), Mohamed Ali Halouani: 42,213 (0.95 %) and Mohamed Mounir Beji: 35,067 (0.79 %).
Critics claim that the election was a farce. They maintain that Bouchiha and Béji were close to Ben Ali in any case and were therefore token candidates to give an air of democracy and fairness. Mohamed Ali Halouani, a figure extremely critical of Ben Ali, and believed to have a popular base, won only 0.95% for the Democratic Initiative Movement, which includes an alliance comprising of Ettajdid, the ex-communist party.
The only real change in these elections was the decrease in Ben Ali's share of the vote. In the previous elections of 1989, 1994 and 1999, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali scored closer to the 99% mark.
Two other political parties, legally entitled to run, decided to boycott the elections for the simple reason, they claim, the election was "an electoral mascarade." One of them stood down, citing fear of violence against him. Human rights groups confirmed beating and pressure against opposition groups.
The Tunisian police had mobilized strongly in favor of the current President and this set the tone for the public debate of the elections; very little criticism of Ben Ali but many protests by human rights groups for a more open and transparent society.
In the legislative elections that took place in parallel, six opposition parties managed to win 20% of the seats in the Tunisian Parliament. Ben Ali's ruling Constitutional Democratic Party, (RCD), swept the remaining 80%.
Following is the official distribution of seats: "Constitutional Democratic Rally": 152; "Ettajdid Movement": 3; "Socialist Democrats' movement": 14; "Popular Unity Party": 11; "Liberal Social Party": 2; "Unionist Democratic Union": 7;
Ben Ali has been credited with macroeconomic stability in Tunisia and economic growth of about 5% a year. Tunisia's standard of living is on a par with many South Eastern European states. (albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )