Tunisian president re-elected for fifth term

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia, was reelected for the fifth consecutive time on Monday, winning almost nine-tenths of the vote.

According to the Tunisian Interior Ministry, Ben Ali obtained 89.28% of the ballot. Opposition candidate Mohamed Bouchiha finished a distant second, with 5.01% of votes, and third place finisher Ahmed Inoubli received 3.8%. 4.7 million people out of 5.29 million registered voters cast their ballots in the elections, officials said, and turnout was 89.45%.

Ben Ali, aged 73, has been in office for 22 years after taking power in a bloodless coup in 1987. Under the current constitution, this is the last time that he can be reelected, as the age limit for presidential candidates is 75 years.

In separate parliamentary elections held simultaneously, Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally party took 161 of the 214 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.The remaining seats are to be split up proportionally among the opposing parties.

Some international human rights groups, however, have accused the president of repressing the opposition.

"What we witness is a cold, badly written, badly directed play that despises the intelligence of Tunisians and believes that these aspects can make legitimacy, or make a new political regime," said Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the leader of the banned Nahda party, told the Al Jazeera news agency.

Ben Ali, however, dismissed critics' accusations, saying shortly before polls opened that voting would be open and democratic. He accused the opposition of trying to spread lies.