Marzouki warns of old regime's return as Tunisia's presidential campaign begins

Karem Yehia in Tunisia, Monday 3 Nov 2014

Congress of the Republic party leader Moncef Marzouki warns a vote for Beji Caid Al-Sebsi will signal a return to the repressive pre-revolution regime

Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki speaks during the opening of his campaign headquarters in Tunis November 2, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Presidential election campaigning began in Tunisia on Sunday with conferences for interim president Moncef Marzouki and Nidaa Tounes party founder Beji Caid Al-Sebsi.

Marzouki, leader of the Congress of the Republic party and a long-term human rights campaigner, presented himself as the revolutionary candidate, warning against a return to the repressive pre-revolution regime.

Tunisia is facing a return to one party dominance, he added, referring to Al-Sebsi, whose Nidaa Tounes, a secular group formed after the revolution, recently became the largest party in parliament.

Marzouki criticised the regime of Habib Bourguiba, who founded the Tunisian republic. "After they violated people rights for more than 50 years, the former regime still wants to regain its power," he said, in reference to Nidaa Tounes, which has some former followers of Bourguiba.

Marzouki admitted that he had made mistakes during his party's participation in the ruling troika alongside Ennahda and Ettakatol. He called on the "democratic forces" to unite to build a new regime.

However, Marzouki did not call on Ettakatol's candidate Mustapha Ben Jafar, who is president of the Constituent Assembly, to step down and support a single candidate against Al-Sebsi.

It was noted that some young members of the Islamist Ennahda party attended Marzouki's first electoral conference. Ennahda has not officially announced which candidate it will support in the upcoming presidential election.

Marzouki party's won only four seats in the parliamentary election last week, compared to Nidaa Tounes' 85.

Nidaa Tounes party leader Mahmoud Ben Romdhane told Ahram Online that Al-Sebsi was determined to continue in the presidential race until the end and would step down for no one.

Ben Romdhane denied allegations that Al-Sebsi and his party were linked to the former regime. 

He said the three main presidential candidates were Al-Sebsi, Marzouki, and Slim Riahi.

Riahi is a businessman and head of the Free Patriotic Union that came third in the parliamentary election after Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda.

The Tunisian presidential election will be held on 23 November. There are 27 candidates in the race.

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