The Middle East Channel

Tunisians Vote in First Post-Revolution Presidential Election

Tunisians voted Sunday to pick their first directly elected president following the country’s 2011 revolution that ousted Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Official results have not been released, however initial counts show that out of the over 25 candidates, there are two frontrunners: Nidaa Tounes’s Beji Caid Essebsi and interim President Moncef Marzouki. Neither candidate is ...

FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

Tunisians voted Sunday to pick their first directly elected president following the country's 2011 revolution that ousted Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Official results have not been released, however initial counts show that out of the over 25 candidates, there are two frontrunners: Nidaa Tounes's Beji Caid Essebsi and interim President Moncef Marzouki. Neither candidate is expected to win a majority, and there will likely be a run-off at the end of December. Nidaa Tounes took the majority of seats in Tunisia's parliamentary elections in October, with 85 of the 217 seats, overtaking the Islamist Ennahda party. Ennahda, which led the country's last government, won the second largest number of seats at 69. Ennahda did not field a presidential candidate. Nidaa Tounes has gained the support of Tunisians disappointed with the Ennahda-led government, which has been criticized for failing to improve economic conditions. However, Nidaa Tounes is criticized for including figures from the Ben Ali regime.

Syria-Iraq

Iraqi officials reported Monday that security forces, backed by Shiite militiamen and Kurdish forces, had retaken two towns in Iraq's eastern Diyala province that had been seized by Islamic State militants. Officials said Iraqi forces recaptured the towns of Saadiya and Jalula late Sunday after fierce clashes with Islamic State fighters. However, there has been no independent confirmation that the Iraqi forces have gained complete control over the towns. Additionally, the Iraqi army has launched an operation in efforts to retake parts of Ramadi after clashing for two days with Islamic State militants who have been fighting to take control of the capital of the western Anbar province. Meanwhile, Nusra Front militants and other Islamist fighters have advanced on the northern Syrian village of Zahra, which has been under siege for nearly 18 months by opposition forces.

Tunisians voted Sunday to pick their first directly elected president following the country’s 2011 revolution that ousted Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Official results have not been released, however initial counts show that out of the over 25 candidates, there are two frontrunners: Nidaa Tounes’s Beji Caid Essebsi and interim President Moncef Marzouki. Neither candidate is expected to win a majority, and there will likely be a run-off at the end of December. Nidaa Tounes took the majority of seats in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections in October, with 85 of the 217 seats, overtaking the Islamist Ennahda party. Ennahda, which led the country’s last government, won the second largest number of seats at 69. Ennahda did not field a presidential candidate. Nidaa Tounes has gained the support of Tunisians disappointed with the Ennahda-led government, which has been criticized for failing to improve economic conditions. However, Nidaa Tounes is criticized for including figures from the Ben Ali regime.

Syria-Iraq

Iraqi officials reported Monday that security forces, backed by Shiite militiamen and Kurdish forces, had retaken two towns in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province that had been seized by Islamic State militants. Officials said Iraqi forces recaptured the towns of Saadiya and Jalula late Sunday after fierce clashes with Islamic State fighters. However, there has been no independent confirmation that the Iraqi forces have gained complete control over the towns. Additionally, the Iraqi army has launched an operation in efforts to retake parts of Ramadi after clashing for two days with Islamic State militants who have been fighting to take control of the capital of the western Anbar province. Meanwhile, Nusra Front militants and other Islamist fighters have advanced on the northern Syrian village of Zahra, which has been under siege for nearly 18 months by opposition forces.

Headlines

  • U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif are meeting Monday as negotiators, who remain divided, consider extending nuclear talks as they hit the November 24 deadline.
  • Israel’s cabinet approved a contentious nationality bill Sunday that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people despite criticism it jeopardizes democracy and discriminates against Palestinians.
  • The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee released a report concluding that the CIA and military responded appropriately to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, dismissing allegations against the Obama administration.
  • Iran has released on bail a British-Iranian woman who was detained after trying to attend a men’s volleyball match and found guilty of "propagating against the ruling system."

Arguments and Analysis

Tunisia’s post-parliamentary election hangover‘ (Danya Greenfield, The Washington Post)

"It has long been a truism of democratic transitions that it is the second election, not the first, that determines whether a new democratic regime has been consolidated. Tunisia’s parliamentary election of Oct. 26 and Sunday’s presidential election, offer just such an event and, even more impressive, the prospect of a peaceful transfer of power through the ballot box. It’s more complicated than that, however, because of unresolved questions about the real nature of Nidaa Tunis and its ability to form a viable government."

Endgame: the United States and Iran‘ (Mohammed Ayoob, Open Democracy)

"The outcome of these negotiations is likely to determine, above all, the trajectory of US-Iran relations over the next several decades. This is why US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, both of whom have invested a great deal in the success of the current negotiations met recently in Oman in the company of Catherine Ashton to try and work out the outlines of a deal that could be ratified at the next round of formal negotiations in Vienna.

Little is known authoritatively about the substance of the Oman meeting although speculations in the press have given a negative spin to the outcome of these talks. However, recent reports that Iran has agreed to ship out much of its already enriched uranium to Russia to be turned into fuel rods that cannot be used for weapons purposes indicate that Tehran is willing to be flexible in meeting some of the western demands."

Mary Casey-Baker

More from Foreign Policy

The Pentagon is seen from the air over Washington, D.C., on Aug. 25, 2013.

The Pentagon’s Office Culture Is Stuck in 1968

The U.S. national security bureaucracy needs a severe upgrade.

The Azerbaijani army patrols the streets of Shusha on Sept. 25 under a sign that reads: "Dear Shusha, you are free. Dear Shusha, we are back. Dear Shusha, we will resurrect you. Shusha is ours."

From the Ruins of War, a Tourist Resort Emerges

Shusha was the key to the recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Now Baku wants to turn the fabled fortress town into a resort.

Frances Pugh in 2019's Midsommar.

Scandinavia’s Horror Renaissance and the Global Appeal of ‘Fakelore’

“Midsommar” and “The Ritual” are steeped in Scandinavian folklore. Or are they?