Tunisian PM Chahed enters crowded race in presidential vote

Tunisian PM Chahed enters crowded race in presidential vote

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, leader of the secular Tahya Tounes party, on Friday submitted his candidacy for the presidential election next month, making him a likely frontrunner in a crowded field.

The Sept. 15 vote follows the death at age 92 last month of Beji Caid Essebsi, the first president to be democratically elected in Tunisia after the popular uprising of 2011.

Chahed, 44, is expected to face strong competition from former president Moncef Marzouki, Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, ex-premier Mehdi Jemaa and businessman Nabil Karoui, the owner of private Nessma TV.

Abdel Fattah Morou, vice president of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, Tunisia’s largest political group, is running as well. He would be Ennahda’s first presidential candidate as Islamists suffered decades of repression before 2011.

Friday was the deadline for candidacies to be filed.

Tunisia’s president controls foreign and defence policy, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.

“The president must have clean hands. Tunisia needs a president to challenge old mindsets and restore hope among young people,” Chahed said after submitting his candidacy, with dozens of political allies, artists and other supporters on hand.

The coming elections will be the third set of polls in which Tunisians have been able to vote freely since the 2011 uprising.