Second oppositon party endorses candidacy of President Ben Ali

Tunis, 17 September 2004-- A second opposition party has announced today its endorsement of the candidacy of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to a new term in office.

Mr Ahmed Inoubli, newly-elected secretary general of the Democratic Unionist Union (UDU), one of Tunisia's main opposition parties, called upon Tunisian voters in general and members of his party in particular to vote for President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the next presidential elections scheduled for October 24, 2004.

He said this stand emanates from the belief of the UDU in the efforts devoted by President Ben Ali to boosting the democratic process and achieving social and economic development, and hence demonstrating that he is the most able candidate to meet such objectives and maintain the stability and invulnerability of the country.

As for the legislative elections, scheduled on the same day of the presidential race, Mr Inoubli said his party will work to preserve its standing in parliament by running in the all electoral districts

The Social Democratic Movement (MDS), another opposition party, had announced in August its endorsement of the candidacy of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to next presidential elections.

Legislative elections will place the same day than presidential elections, on October 24, 2004. Among the country's seven opposition parties, five are today represented in Parliament. The Democratic Constitutional Rally holds the majority in the Chamber of Deputies.

The MDS said it has decided to endorse the candidacy of President Ben Ali to "finish building democratic pluralism" and facilitate Tunisia 's access to "the rank of developed nations based on its own capabilities and resources."

Three opposition leaders have declared their own candidacy to the office of president. Two of them, Mr Mohamed Bouchiha, secretary general of the Popular Unity Party (PUP), and Mr Mounir Beji, the president of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), have already officially presented their candidacy papers to the Constitutional Council. The third Mr Mohamed Ali Halouani, nominated by "Ettajdid" party (former communist) is expected to officially present his bid this week.

The incumbent, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has officially presented his candidacy to new term in office on September 3 rd .

Reforms introduced prior to the 2004 elections have introduced a two-round voting system for presidential elections, established a maximum age ceiling of 75 years for candidacy to the office of president, and eased the conditions for running President.