August 9, 2019 / 8:51 AM / 14 days ago

Tunisian PM Chahed submits bid in crowded race for presidency

Tunisia's Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, leader of the secular Tahya Tounes party, speaks during a rally in Tunis, Tunisia August 8, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, leader of the secular Tahya Tounes party, on Friday submitted his candidacy for the presidential election expected 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.

Tunisia was the spark of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts that toppled a number of authoritarian regimes around North Africa and the Middle East. Only in Tunisia, however, did a peaceful transition to democracy follow, but the country remains mired in a crisis of high unemployment and under-investment that has fuelled social unrest.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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