0838 GMT February 26, 2020
Among the 24 men and two women running for election are the prime minister, a media magnate detained last month on suspicion of tax fraud and money laundering, and a candidate from a moderate Islamist party that was banned before the revolution, Reuters reported.
The presidential election was called early because of the death in July of president Beji Caid Essebsi, the first democratically elected head of state after the popular uprising that overthrew veteran strongman Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Reuters reported.
The president controls foreign and defense policy, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.
Whoever ends up leading the country will face the challenge of a faltering economy and continued efforts to plug a large state deficit and public debt.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said last week that Tunisia was still under threat from terrorist groups including Daesh four years after two attacks killed dozens of tourists, badly hurting Tunisia’s tourism industry.
State television on Monday reported the death of a police chief and three terrorists in a security operation near the Algerian border.
Meanwhile, unemployment has risen from 12% before the uprising to 15.2% now – rising to 30% in some cities.
Despite his continued detention, businessman Nabil Karoui, who owns the private Nesma television station, was kept on the final list of candidates that the electoral commission announced on Saturday. His political party says the charges are politically motivated.
Several candidates began their campaigns on the stroke of midnight, when the election season officially began, with Chahed meeting hundreds of supporters in the capital’s impoverished Kabarya district.
Other prominent candidates include former president Moncef Marzouki, former prime minister Mehdi Jomaa and Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi.
Abdelfattah Mourou, vice president of Ennahda party, is the moderate Islamist party’s first candidate to become head of state after decades of repression before 2011.