Speech by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at the opening of the Electoral Campaign

Le Kram, October 10 2004

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,

Fellow citizens
in all parts of this secure country and abroad,

With God's grace, we open the presidential and legislative electoral campaign. As we meet again,

we renew the commitment we have taken for Tunisia , for its glory and invulnerability, for its prosperity and progress. We all renew our commitment for the sake of our homeland.

It is for our country's sake that we have undertaken our action of salvation at the dawn of the Change, restoring the people's sovereignty and re-establishing the Republic and its institutions.

It is for our country's sake that we have established the project of change, based upon the principles of reform and modernization. It was thus that we have ushered in an era of construction, accomplishment and gains, an era laying the foundations for a better future for our coming generations.

Our people, men and women, from all generations, intellectual and manual workers, farmers and fishermen, and businessmen, have all embraced the process we have adopted and the choices we have made at each stage.

We have counted on the maturity of our people, and we have won the challenge.

With a firm determination, we have persevered in taking initiatives, in working and in making accomplishments. Tunisian men and women have proved our people's capacities and great potentialities.

Since the Change, the achievements we have made have changed the face of Tunisia in all areas of endeavor. The GDP has increased fivefold, and our country's credibility has been reinforced within its international environment.

Indebtedness has been reduced, and the average inflation rate has been brought down to 3%, against more than twice this percentage in the past.

The export sector has been stimulated, and the per capita income has increased more than three times.

We have achieved the objective we set in our Program for the Future in 1999, by exceeding the level of 3,500 dinars as an average per capita income in 2004.

With all determination and perseverance, we have worked to improve the citizens' quality of life in cities, in rural areas and in all the regions of the country.

The structure of the Tunisian society has changed. The demographic growth rate has decreased to 1.08%, against more than twice this percentage in 1987. The health and living conditions have improved, bringing up the rate of life expectancy at birth to 73.2 years, against 67 years only at the beginning of the era of Change.

The number of students has increased six times, bringing up the rate of enrolment in higher education to 26.4% for the 20-24 age category. Today, our elementary and secondary schools include more than 1.1 million pupils, against no more than 420,000 in the past.

All these achievements have been made thanks to the reforms we have undertaken to promote our educational system, to improve its performance, to upgrade its institutions, and to eradicate such negative phenomena as students dropping out of school and low rates of success.

With these reforms, we have worked to anchor the foundations of our national identity in our young generations, and to ensure their access to knowledge, sciences and technologies of this age, in order to win the challenge of modernity.

The rate of social transfers and expenses amounts today to 53.5% of the State budget, against 44% in 1986. This, in fact, constitutes a consecration of the stake we have placed on people. We have also been keen on directing our efforts toward the sectors of health, education, training, research, employment and the various social programs.

Today, with the social security cover rate amounting to 86% against only 54.6 in the past, and with an accelerating pace of job creation and an increasing rate of women's activity, all the foundations have been reinforced and all the conditions have been provided for the achievement of the hoped-for quantum leap for our country, so that our people can pursue its successful process which has placed it, in a short period, within the panoply of emerging countries.

The past period was, on the international scene, fraught with difficulties and challenges, accompanied, on the national scene, by inadequate climatic conditions, and then by exorbitant oil prices on the world markets, and a shrinking foreign investment as a result of these factors.

The beginning of the new century has witnessed major changes and events, which have deeply affected the world juncture at all levels, radically changed the world order, and influenced its civilizational and religious dimensions.

Things have been further intensified with the emergence of new forms of violence and terrorism, which deeply threaten the bonds of cooperation and solidarity and the relations of dialogue and entente among countries and peoples.

Despite such conditions and difficulties, our country has managed, over the past five years, to preserve its balances, to resist the world's economic fluctuations, and to make a fresh start toward further growth and prosperity and the achievement of optimum results. We have indeed managed, thanks to the soundness of our choices, to achieve a 100% rate of implementation of all the items included in the Electoral Program we presented to voters in 1999.

We have achieved what we promised our people, and pursued our progress on the path of well-being and prosperity. Salary increases have never been discontinued; and we have been committed to our approach premised upon social harmony and our contract-based approach, the fact which has made of our country a unique model despite the conditions and difficulties we stated earlier.

Besides, our successes have been achieved thanks to the awareness of our people-men and women, as well as of our national organizations representing employers, farmers, fishermen, and intellectual and manual workers, and also thanks to their sense of responsibility and their determination to serve the country's supreme interest.

Fellow citizens,

The presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for October 24, constitute an excellent opportunity for political parties to make known their electoral programs as well as their orientations and choices. They also constitute an opportunity to work and to win more supporters, within the context of democracy and pluralism which we have been keen on establishing and consolidating, by ensuring the plurality of candidacies to the Presidency of the Republic and anchoring political pluralism in the Chamber of Deputies.

These elections, for which we have provided all guarantees of transparency and integrity and offered the possibility to follow them for those from sisterly and friendly countries wishing to attend their various stages, will provide another opportunity for all to show a highly civilized behavior and embrace the principles of democracy.

While thanking again all who have endorsed our candidacy, including national organizations, the components of civil society and political parties, for having expressed a great confidence in our choices and a strong commitment to our orientations, we are convinced that they will offer the best support to ensure the success of these elections. The Constitutional Democratic Party (RCD) ranks first among these parties. It is the party that we have the honor of chairing; it is the party that presented us as a candidate for these elections; it is the party of activism, glory; the party of change and ambition; it is the party that boasts many skilled cadres, men and women, serving our beloved country from all positions.

We are convinced that the RCD, our prestigious party, will again be up to our people's ambitions and aspirations for the future.

Fellow citizens,

It is for the sake of our beloved and invulnerable Tunisia that we strive and sacrifice. And it is for tomorrow's Tunisia and its youth and future generations that we have drawn up our Electoral Program 2004-2009; our Program for tomorrow's Tunisia .

We want it to be a program that ushers in a new stage. We also want it to be a program that lays the ground for subsequent stages and opens up new prospects for Tunisia and for the future of its young generations; a developed Tunisia which we want to be endowed with a great cohesion and a strong associative fabric, anchored in modernity, and mastering modern technologies, scientific innovations, and new and innovative industries.

We are building the present and establishing the foundations for the future. We are making accomplishments, laying the ground for further achievements, and paving the way for our future generations.

Our Program's orientations and choices are drawn from the spirit of reform and modernization as well as from Tunisia 's new Constitution. Our Program's principles and constant tenets are drawn from the principles of the Republic and the values of rule of law, freedom, security and justice.

Our Program's concepts and elements constitute strong foundations in the process of building the knowledge-based society, establishing the new economy, and promoting free initiative. Our Program offers a stronger support to employment-our constant priority, and a further stimulation to the creation of enterprises and the conquering of foreign markets.

Our program serves our strategic choices.

It is a program for all, aiming at improving the quality of life and ensuring well-being. It also aims at further reinforcing equality and promoting the rights of women. It is a program for youth, for children, for all social categories.

It is a program that reinforces the gains of the middle class and offers support to categories with special needs. It is also a program for the men and women of Tunisia abroad. It is a program that highlights our noble values, the values of work, solidarity, moderation and tolerance.

These presidential and legislative elections come at a time when Tunisia is at a stage where it can aspire to join the ranks of developed countries and modern economies.

Our gains, our achievements, and all our growth indicators do reinforce our optimism and strengthen our determination to achieve our lofty objective : joining the ranks of developed countries, for the sake of our people, for the glory of our country, and for the prosperity of its present and future generations.

Today, we present our Program for tomorrow's Tunisia . With this program, with its twenty-one topics, we launch a new era of accomplishment and work; we open up new prospects for Tunisia . With these topics, we establish twenty-one landmarks in the process of building the next stage, so that it constitutes a crucial stage in preparing tomorrow's Tunisia.

Fellow citizens,

Employment remains our top priority. For that reason, we have included, within our Program, mechanisms to reinforce employment and measures to stimulate it. We have also been keen on encouraging private initiative and immaterial work, identifying new occupations and preserving traditional skills.

While we have managed, during the past five years, to achieve a tangible progress in satisfying the additional job demands, with the creation of 350,000 jobs, i.e., with an average of 70,000 new jobs every year, the fact which has decreased the unemployment rate by two points to reach, for the first time in our country, 13.9%, we have placed again employment in the forefront of our Program, in order to achieve a stronger correlation between the evolution of the structure of the job market and the increase in the number of university graduates on the one hand, and the development of the national economy and its various sectors on the other hand.

In our Program, we have included an increase in the limit of the value of credits granted by the Tunisian solidarity Bank, and that of the investment credits granted to university graduates. We have also provided for simplified procedures for the creation of business enterprises, and generalized mechanisms of guidance in all governorates.

We have consolidated our Program through the adoption of practical programs aimed at further promoting and upgrading our educational system in all its cycles, so that its indicators can reach the levels of the most developed educational systems in the world, as regards the ratio of teaching staff per student, the learning conditions and quality, the efficiency of scientific research, and the educational institutions' complementarity with their socio-economic environment and attachment to our national identity and culture.

We will universally introduce a pre-school grade by the end of 2009. We will also reach the average of one computer for each classroom in each cycle of education by 2009. We will upgrade our universities and create new institutions in all regions, in order to meet our needs in the higher education sector, where the number of students will exceed 500,000 in 2009.

We will also work to meet the challenge of quality in vocational training and to develop its system of financing, in order to make sure it meets the needs of the economy and strengthens links between vocational training and the enterprise on the one hand, and between vocational training and the system of education on the other hand.

Based on our belief in the role of scientific research in establishing the knowledge society, in reinforcing the development process, and in opening up the prospects of innovation and creativity for skilled people, we are determined to increase the share of the GDP allocated to scientific and technological research to 1.25% by the end of 2009, while giving a greater role to the private sector in this regard, after we have achieved the objective set in our Program for the Future and brought this share to 1%.

Fellow citizens,

The greatest challenge of the coming stage consists in accelerating the pace of business enterprise creation in all sectors, especially in the fields of services and promising and innovative industries. We have, therefore, made of it a basic theme in our Program, in order to further stimulate employment, strengthen our competitive capacity, achieve integration within the world economy, and ensure the success of the process of partnership with all partners with whom we entertain economic relations.

Our objective is to create 70,000 new business enterprises or projects during the coming five years. We will promote free initiative, by reducing to only 1,000 dinars the capital legally required for the creation of limited liability companies. We will also establish a bank specialized in financing small and medium-sized companies to help these companies obtain credits.

In addition to working for the creation of a new generation of innovative business enterprises, we have decided various incentives and encouragements for export-oriented enterprises, which will be allowed to keep all the foreign currency they obtain from exports. We will also increase the business travel allowance and the travel allowance for promoters of new projects.

In addition to focusing on the culture of quality and increasing the number of our business enterprises achieving conformity with international standards, we have set the raising of the national managerial staff ratio to 17% as an objective for the year 2009.

To offer all the country's regions equal chances to benefit from this national effort, we will establish a business center in each Governorate. Such centers will consolidate all structures of support and guidance, and provide information for promoters and business enterprises, from the phases preceding the establishment of the project to the phase of financing and effective implementation of the project.

As the knowledge-based economy constitutes a basic component of the new economy whose foundations we are endeavoring to establish, we will work to achieve our country's integration within the global grid of intelligence-based economy, and to attract foreign investments for Tunisia , relying on our wealth of human resources and their competence in all fields.

We will reach a telephone coverage of 80% in 2009. Our Program also provides for the gradual removal of the fees for subscription to telephone networks, the establishment of an electronic network with a higher international capacity, and the generalization of broadband connections for all subscribers-individuals and enterprises.

We have also set the achievement of the figure of one million computers as an objective for 2009.

While endeavoring to achieve a quicker growth rate and a greater integration within the global economy, we will step up efforts, as part of the constant tenets of development work, particularly the correlation between the economic and social dimensions, in order to limit the inflation rate to 3% and the current-account deficit to 2.5% of the GDP, and to further bring down the foreign indebtedness rate, in order to guarantee the future of our coming generations.

We will also alleviate tax obligations and burdens on enterprises, decrease the duties imposed on highly-taxable goods, and achieve convergence between the system set up for fully export-oriented enterprises and that adopted for enterprises geared toward the domestic market.

We want Tunisia to become an international center for trade and commerce, in order to reinforce its capacity to achieve integration within its world environment and strengthen its position on foreign markets.

Among the basic themes of our Electoral Program are the modernization of the banking and financial systems, and the orientation of our monetary reforms toward the full convertibility of the Dinar.

We are firmly determined to promote our banking services to the level of international standards. We will work to establish electronic banking and to reinforce incentives and mechanisms in order to increase the number of enterprises listed in the Stock Exchange.

As part of the orientation toward the full convertibility of the Dinar, we will accord attention to the members of liberal professions as well as to exporters of various services.

To materialize the constant care we offer to low-income social categories as part of our solidarity-based choice, we will increase the upper limit deductible from the income tax base for recipients of the minimum guaranteed wage.

Fellow citizens,

One of the foundations of modernity and the building of the new economy consists in establishing a modern infrastructure in all fields. Since the Change, we have accorded all due attention to this sector, which has made it possible to achieve a major quantum leap for the national economy and the social action.

We are firmly determined to open up new prospects for Tunisia in this field, so as to best prepare it for the coming decades, for the requirements of progress, and for the expected changes in its social, demographic and urban structure, and in order to preserve the soundness of its environment and reinforce the conditions of quality of life for our coming generations.

It is our duty vis-à-vis these generations to provide the necessary ground for a modern and solidly structured infrastructure, by promoting urban development, reinforcing the networks of roads and highways, and ensuring smooth transportation between and inside regions and cities.

One of the strategic files submitted for study during the coming stage consists in establishing a clear plan for the modernization of the network of highways and expressways, in order to keep up with the requirements of the new economy in the medium and long terms.

Since the Change, we have worked to preserve our food security and to improve the conditions of farmers. We have recorded significant achievements and gains in this field. Today, our determination is strong to further modernize this sector, to improve its productivity, and to strengthen its competitiveness. This will further improve the farmers' income and enhance the role of agriculture in the process of development. Our priorities, in this regard, consist in winning major challenges, the first of which being water desalination and acquisition of the necessary technology in this field.

The second challenge consists in mastering the techniques of producing and diversifying select seeds and plants, and in protecting the national agricultural and animal stock.

The third consists in meeting the challenge of quality and introducing modern management into this sector.

The fourth consists in conquering new sectors such as biological agriculture, promoting the sector of fisheries and fish-breeding, protecting the soil against erosion, pursuing the fight against desertification, and making use of the potential resources existing in the desert.

Through the new structure of the agricultural production, we will work to make sure irrigated zones become the source of 50% of this production. We will also endeavor to build a new generation of large dams, to establish a network of connection between dams, to generalize the use of water conservation techniques, and to increase biological production by 200% by the year 2009. We will also strive to achieve a higher level of competitiveness for our agricultural products.

Fellow citizens,

Since the Change, we have focused attention on reforming public service, developing its legislation, and simplifying its procedures and regulations. We have developed the services it provides and endeavored to bring it closer to citizens, so that it can serve them and serve the development work.

We are determined to pursue this effort, so that the public service can keep up with the requirements of the new economy and achieve integration within the knowledge society and the world of information and communication networks.

We are in the age of express services and the efficient interaction with their beneficiaries. To eliminate long delays in certain administrative services, we will set specific deadlines for the public service to respond to citizens' requests, and generalize the services of the Public Service Ombudsman in all Governorates by the year 2009. We will also enlarge the scope of remote services provided to citizens and institutions. Our Program also includes the replacement of 90% of licenses by lists of requirements by the end of 2009.

Improving the citizens' living standards, preserving the high percentage of middle-class categories in our society, and reinforcing the foundations of social promotion for all segments of society are among our basic choices.

This is indeed what we will continue reinforcing, so that life quality indicators in Tunisia reach the level of developed societies. In this regard, we will create new forms of financing so that average-income citizens can afford to purchase a home.

To consolidate these mechanisms, we have included within our Program the enlargement of the range of beneficiaries from the financing of social housing to those whose monthly wage does not exceed a maximum of one thousand dinars.

We will also work to achieve an effective social security cover of 95% in 2009, and also to achieve a better healthcare coverage and a higher quality of health services.

To further improve the citizens' purchasing power and enable the national economy, with its various indicators, to join countries holding a more advanced rank in the world, we have set a new objective for the coming stage : achieving a per capita income of 5,000 in 2009.

At the same time, we will work to ensure a greater protection for consumers and to harmonize the national health safety standards with the European standards, in order to reinforce the competitiveness of the national economy.

In the coming stage, we will work to further promote our cities, to make them into cities for the new century; cities for a developed society; cities for work, for intelligence-based industries, for the knowledge society; cities for well-being and cultural and sports activities; beautiful and clean cities. We will also endeavor, through the programs for the care of villages and rural areas, to make quality of life comprehensive and fully-encompassing to all, benefiting all inhabitants and serving sustainable development.

We work for the quality of life and for a sound environment. We are keen on ensuring an optimum use of the land, and on disseminating an urban and environmental culture that reinforces the foundations of decent life, the beauty of cities and the soundness of the environment, relying, in this regard, on the stimulation of partnerships with the components of civil society.

Fellow citizens,

In our view, solidarity constitutes a civilizational and an ethical value as well as a social bond.

We have worked to stimulate the sense of solidarity in all Tunisian men and women, through our successive initiatives, especially the establishment of the National Solidarity Fund (26-26) which has benefited "shadow areas". We have accelerated the pace of creation of small projects and sources of income, through the establishment of the Tunisian Solidarity Bank and the system of micro-credits. We have also consolidated the country's capacity for employment through the establishment of the National Employment Fund (21-21).

Today, these mechanisms constitute, along with the other existing structures, an integrated and multi-faceted national solidarity network. With the new traditions, we have anchored the culture of solidarity which provides today the best support to the State's efforts.

We will pursue our course of action by enhancing partnerships with civil society in this field, and consolidating the role of solidarity in promoting stability and strengthening the foundations of comprehensive and sustainable development.

To consolidate the system of assistance, the mechanisms and the various programs for care to laid-offs, and to facilitate their re-integration within economic life, we have included within our Program the creation of a new type of contracts, the contract for professional re-integration, in order to provide care to workers laid off for economic reasons.

We will work to promote social categories with special needs from the phase of assistance to the phase of integration, by adopting a new orientation law to promote and protect persons with disability and help them achieve socio-economic integration.

Fellow citizens,

Tunisian women today are full-fledged partners in society, and are equal to men. They assume responsibilities in public life, and contribute to the development work and to all fields of creation, innovation, and cultural production, as well as to the dissemination of our civilizational values.

Women's political presence has reached significant ratios : 11.5% in the Chamber of Deputies; 20.6% in municipal councils, and 16% in the Economic and Social Council. They are also present in all professional and social fields, which clearly reflects the degree of advancement Tunisian women have attained : nearly 50% of the teachers in primary and secondary schools, 42% of the medical profession, and 40% in higher education institutions. They also represent 32% of engineers, 31% of lawyers and 27% of judges.

We will work to further reinforce women's presence in all economic sectors and areas of public life, as well as in high-level positions and in decision-making and responsibility positions.

To make it easier for women to reconcile their family life with their professional commitments, we have included, in our Electoral Program, a special system for mothers allowing them, if they wish, to work half-time for two-thirds of the salary, while retaining their rights in terms of retirement and social security cover. This in addition to improving the conditions surrounding women's activities and their family life in all its aspects.

We have placed youth in a high position because we believe that building the future rests on youth. We have been keen on listening to their concerns, and we have regularly organized national consultations on youth.

We have made youth a basic theme in all our policies. We have enhanced their participation in public life and their presence in the institutions of the Republic, in the various structures, and in the civil society fabric.

This being our choice, we will continue to improve the conditions of youth in all fields, focusing our action on establishing a renewed infrastructure for youth in all Governorates.

We have included in our Program an increase in the budget allocated to culture, youth and leisure, so that it reaches 1.5% of the state budget in 2009, while devoting 50% of the increase to finance infrastructure projects for youth activities.

To make sure young people who graduate from the various cycles of higher education or from the sector-based vocational training centers do not remain without health coverage after graduation and during the search for a job or the preparation for the creation of a project, we will provide health coverage for graduates for one year after graduation.

Tunisians abroad are a civilizational bond and a source of support for development. We have accorded them all due attention. We follow their concerns and conditions, and we work to protect their rights in their countries of residence and to consolidate such rights in law and in practice. We are constantly developing outreach channels with them, as well as special programs for the teaching of the national culture and the Arabic language. We are also giving encouragement to their associative activities and conveying to them our appreciation for their achievements, creative works and cultural production.

Tunisia expects a lot from its sons and daughters abroad, so that they constitute the best support for its development and the best reflection of its image. We consider them a civilizational bridge between their homeland and each of their nations of residence. This is indeed what we have constantly worked to emphasize in each stage as a constant tenet of the Change and as one of the fundamental choices we have made.

Besides, we announce our determination to ensure the representation of our communities abroad in the Council of Advisors, in order to enhance their participation in public life, side by side with the other components and categories of our people.

During the coming stage that will witness the completion of the process of partnership with Europe, we will work to make sure Tunisians abroad constitute an integral part of our approach to association with the European Union, so that the development of this approach introduces positive changes in their conditions.

Fellow citizens,

Our constant principle is that culture is a source of support for the Change. Our firm conviction is that no progress can be achieved without a culture deeply anchored in our civilizational history, reinforcing the identity and the foundations of the Tunisian personality, capable of contributing to universal civilization, and of being actively present within an environment facing serious dangers of cultural invasion, an environment where culture has become a manifestation of peoples' resiliency.

As we constantly endeavor with perseverance to stimulate creativity and innovation, it is one of our fundamental tenets and choices to reinforce the foundations of our national culture, in the forefront of which our sublime Islamic religion and its supreme values, the values of moderation, tolerance, solidarity, openness and interpretative thinking (Ijtihad).

We have made of the dialogue among civilizations and religions a basic theme of Tunisian cultural life and a constant orientation in our cultural relations with other peoples and in our action on the international scene. Through the reforms and initiatives we have adopted since the Change, we have worked to protect our religion against all forms of distortion and to disseminate its sublime teachings and the spirit of moderation and Ijtihad characterizing it.

We have rehabilitated mosques and provided care to those in charge of their affairs. In this regard, we have been keen on respecting our traditions and noble values, rejecting all forms of extremism and fanaticism, including types of clothes coming from abroad by imitation and as a sign of political extremism.

During the past period, we have worked to materialize our decision to increase the budget allocated to culture to 1% of the State budget. We have developed the existing legislations to encourage production and investment in cultural industries and to protect the rights of authorship and publication. We have intensified our care to intellectuals and artists and promoted better working conditions and social protection for them.

In the coming stage, we will work to further promote our national culture to a higher status. We will accord a greater attention to digital culture as one aspect of the building of the knowledge society, by supporting the new modes of cultural production.

We have also included within our Program a further increase in the budget allocated to culture, so that it gradually reaches 1.5% of the State budget in 2009, while devoting 50% of the increase to financing cultural projects in the regions.

We will also work to reinforce the safeguarding of the heritage and historical monuments, and to open up wider prospects for cultural industries, by establishing a special training program in the field of business enterprise creation for graduates of Arts Institutes, and by encouraging foreign investment and partnership in the fields of cultural production and cultural tourism.

Since the Change, we have been keen on consecrating the principles of mutual respect and understanding, moderation, cooperation and solidarity in our foreign relations at the bilateral and multilateral levels, and through Tunisia's contributions to all international, regional and UN agencies and organizations, being attached to our national sovereignty, our civilizational roots, and the foundations of the Tunisian national identity, anchored in its Maghreb, Arab, Islamic, African and Mediterranean environments.

We are firmly determined to rally efforts in order to resolve the major issues of concern to the Arab World, in particular the Middle-East question.

We are also keen on supporting all efforts that can serve joint Arab action, stimulate the process of reform and modernization, and promote women's conditions in our Arab world.

We will also endeavor to further reinforce the process of partnership with the European Union, in order to achieve the hoped-for quantum leap in terms of integration in our foreign environment, which will serve Tunisia 's interests and open up wider prospects for its future generations.

We are also strongly determined to reinforce cooperation with the sisterly African countries at the bilateral level, as part of tripartite cooperation, and through the mechanisms and programs of the African Union, and also to promote and widen the prospects of cooperation with the countries of America and Asia .

We will diligently pursue our efforts to serve peace and stability in our region and in the world, to support the UN efforts in all fields, to actively contribute to serving peace and fruitful cooperation with all international financial and economic organizations and agencies, and to foster the role of NGOs in serving humanity in all fields.

Fellow citizens,

We have adopted reform as a firm choice since the dawn of the Change. We have premised our action upon our firm conviction in the principles of democracy, pluralism, freedom, human rights, solidarity, tolerance, moderation and the golden mean. This conviction is deeply rooted in the foundations of the Tunisian national identity and in our country's historical experience.

Our reformist thinking is quintessentially Tunisian and its manifestations are multi-faceted. Nonetheless, we have benefited from the experiences of other countries and drawn lessons from the setbacks of some of them. We have been committed to our choice in each stage and materialized it in all the reforms we have undertaken, the latest of which being the constitutional reform which we submitted to a referendum and which was unanimously approved by the people as a framework for the future republican institution-building and democratic process, and as a reference for the values we all embrace.

Since the Change, we have made successive initiatives, consisting particularly in amending the Constitution, the Electoral Code and the various legislations organizing political life; our aim being to consecrate our democratic choice in daily life and reinforce pluralism in our constitutional institutions. We have encouraged political parties, provided support to them and to their press, offered them the possibility to obtain seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Had it not been for our initiatives, this would never have been possible.

Today, we are firmly moving ahead; and nothing will hinder our progress. The coming stage will witness new strides which we will make to strengthen our democratic gains and enrich our achievements, by reinforcing the contribution of political parties to promoting the process of democracy and pluralism.

We are determined to give a new impetus to local democracy, and to promote the means for citizens' participation in the affairs of their regions. We will also work to offer all national organizations the possibility to participate in the sessions of regional councils, as part of the provisions offered, in this regard, by the law to Governors.

Through this Program, we will also work to reinforce the prerogatives of regions in setting development priorities and conceiving regional programs, especially as regards employment, the promotion of free initiative, and the acceleration of the pace of enterprise creation in the regions.

We have also included in our Program the establishment of a first generation of sectoral program contracts between the State and regional councils, in addition to allocating additional budget resources to the regions to enable them to accomplish their new tasks. We have also included a special program to encourage skilled cadres to move from headquarters offices to regional locations instead.

We will work to enhance pluralism in the media landscape, by increasing support to newspapers published by political parties, enlarging the fora of dialogue, encouraging private initiative in the information sector, and improving the conditions of journalistic work and the situation of journalists in light of the evolution witnessed by this sector.

We will also work to achieve a new quantum leap for civil society, by giving a new impetus to associative life and greater incentives to the associative fabric.

Fellow citizens,

We are working and persevering for a modernist Tunisia . The forthcoming presidential election, scheduled for October 24, 2004 , will, therefore, constitute an opportunity to renew our determination to pursue the process of accomplishments and gains at all the political, economic, social and cultural levels.

In light of the values and principles of the Republic, we are reinforcing the practice of democracy and further anchoring pluralism in all aspects of political activity. We are promoting human rights and expanding public and individual freedoms, in order to win the stakes of the new century, meet the challenge of globalization, and achieve further successes and results in addition to those accomplished by our country at all levels.

We renew our commitment to continue our endeavor as an emerging country that is moving ahead.

We listen to our people and meet its aspirations. Our Program for tomorrow's Tunisia responds to our people's concerns and meets the needs of all its categories. With its twenty-one topics, we establish a contract for work and accomplishment, and we lay the ground for the future. We renew our commitment with Tunisia , with its glory and invulnerability, with the better future for the coming generations.

With all the sons and daughters of Tunisia ,

All for the sake of Tunisia .

Long live Tunisia , glorious and invulnerable forever !

Thank you for your attention.