On Sunday, December 21, the Tunisian people elected the President of the Republic, in a scene never before experienced in Tunisia. Since the proclamation of the Republic on July 25, 1957, and the adoption of the Constitution of June 1, 1959, Tunisia has never experienced free, democratic and transparent elections. While the neo-colonial regime continued to hold elections at regular intervals, the results were known in advance since the only candidate presented was always elected by an overwhelming majority. Tunisians continued to engage in this farce even after the amendment to the constitution in 1974 that made Habib Bourguiba president for life. After the coup of November 7, 1987, General Ben Ali introduced modifications, but he himself chose his competitors from among those politicians who expressed their allegiance to him. This did not prevent him from receiving 99% of the votes. That is why the last elections were experienced with great apprehension and hope by the Tunisians, especially since they were the first presidential elections after January 14, 2011 [the date when Ben Ali was overthrown – translator’s note].
Let us remember that in the first round of the presidential elections held on November 15, 27 men and women presented themselves as candidates: most of them were in one way or another candidates of some faction of the bourgeoisie, wanting either to maintain their power or regain it. Opposing them and in a certain way against them, Comrade Hamma Hammami presented himself as representative of the popular classes and as bearer of their hopes of realizing the objectives of the revolution. His finishing in third place meant that the second round opposed representatives of the two candidates, the one as reactionary as the other, that is, the candidate of “Nidaa Tounes” Beji Caid Essebsi, former minister under Bourguiba and Ben Ali, and the undeclared candidate of the Islamist party, the Provisional President Moncef Marzouki. Even before the beginning of the campaign, the bourgeois media tried to present them as fundamentally opposed to each other and as bearers of two antagonistic social plans: the one presented as the standard-bearer of modernity, democracy and the secular state, and the other as the defender of the identity, of the religious state. But we know that this is nothing but good claims to conceal the true bourgeois class character of the two plans they bore.
Indeed, the “Nidaa Tounes” and “Ennahdha” parties are just political and organizational expressions (and not the only ones) of the interests of the big comprador bourgeoisie; whatever the differences between them may be, their essence remains the same. It is enough to glance at their economic and social programs to realize this: neoliberalism, the reduction of state intervention in the economy and in investment, increased privatization of public enterprises and state banks, lifting restrictions on the prices of consumer goods and services, elimination of the compensation fund, etc. Their massive vote in agreement at the Assembly of People’s Representatives last December 10 in favor of the Finance Act 2015 is a clear expression. This was a law that only the deputies of the Popular Front rejected, since it provides for anti-popular measures seeking to place the burden of the crisis on the popular masses alone.
What we have said about the two candidates largely explains the slippage experienced by their respective campaigns. At no time was there any question of confrontation of political or other programs. These are for the most part the representatives of people who have already been known. One who for decades was in the service of the dictatorial regime in its two versions (that of Bourguiba and that of Ben Ali), in which he held key positions, which made him partly responsible for the many hardships experienced by the Tunisians, such as repression and deprivation of freedoms while he was the Minister of the Interior, and especially since he never expressed the least regret or the least self-criticism for what happened. The other one for the last three years has been compromised with Islamism and the reactionary plan of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia and elsewhere. The change that this human rights activist has undergone and which has made him a protector of the army and an objective ally of currents advocating and practicing terrorism was the focus of the criticism and attacks on him. The blunders he committed during his tenure have earned him the rejection of the whole of society. The latest was his speech of hate and divisiveness towards those who do not share his opinion or his politics who, according to him, are all pawns in the pay of the former regime.
Let us remember that on the eve of the first round, the chances of these two candidates were very uneven since at the legislative elections held a month ago, the “Congress for the Republic,” the party of Moncef Marzouki, received only 67,000 votes, that is, less than 4% of the votes while “Nidaa Tounes” received 37%. But the Islamist party, which did not submit an official presidential candidate, gave its vote to the outgoing president, after suffering a semi-defeat in the parliamentary elections; this allowed him to exert pressure on the winning party and better negotiate with it. As a result, Marzouki was promoted to the second round with more than a million votes, only 4 points from his opponent.
But a large majority of citizens who voted for “Nidaa Tounes” in the legislative elections, just to bar the way to the “Ennahda” reacted the same way in the second round of the presidential elections: they voted for Essebsi to prevent Marzouki from returning to the Carthage Palace. Thousands of people who would not have voted for either one or the other made that choice to put an end once and for all to the institutions that resulted from the ballot of October 23, 2011, which gave full powers to the Islamist party and to those who agreed to play the role of its stooge. So this is a protest vote much more than a vote of agreement with a program.
The liberal parties in parliament, the “Liberal Patriotic Union” (16 seats) and “Afek Tounes” (8 seats) as well as all parties claiming the Destourian spectrum (the former ruling party) called on their followers to vote for Essebsi. As for the Popular Front, considering that neither the one nor the other candidate was a product of the revolution, nor able to defend its objectives, and given the chaotic management of national affairs by the government of the troika and its president, the latter being the real but undeclared candidate of the Islamist party, called on the people to block his path, leaving the choice to the voters whether or not to vote for his opponent.
The official results announced today confirm the victory of Beji Caid Essebsi with 55.68% against 44.32% for his opponent, the outgoing President Moncef Marzouki, with a 60% voter participation and a massive abstention, especially by the youths. The Popular Front and of all the progressive forces of the country, for whom a new era of struggle is opening, have a lot of work to do.
Tunis, December 22, 2014