Tunisian PM concerned over Ben Ali backers' poll exclusion

AFP , Sunday 17 Apr 2011

Tunisia's interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi is concerned over the exclusion of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's backers from elections in July

Tunisia's interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi said a decision by the body charged with organising July 24 poll to bar anyone who held a position in the government or the Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD) party could destabilise the country, La Presse newspaper and the official TAP news agency warned.

Essebsi, who opened the first conference of the governors of Tunisia's 25 provinces, said the move would "provide no help" to parties set up after Ben Ali's January ouster, which ended his 23 years in power.

The commission has also disqualified from the ballot those who signed a petition backing Ben Ali's candidacy in upcoming elections in 2014. The RCD, created by Ben Ali in 1988, claims to have the support of about two million people in a country of 10 million citizens.

The party was suspended from official activities in February after Ben Ali fled abroad on January 14 at the height of a popular uprising to overthrow his autocratic regime.
It was dissolved by a Tunisian court at the demand of the interim government on March 9.

On July 24, Tunisians will vote for a constituent assembly that will develop a new constitution for the north African country. After the RCD's exclusion from the ballot, hundreds staged a protest in the capital city Tunis.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, current chair of the transatlantic security body OSCE who is currently visiting Tunis, said authorities would have to be "very careful" in the way they handled Ben Ali supporters.

"I have no advice to give but I know it's going to be an enormous challenge," the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told AFP.

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