Opposition party decides to endorse candidacy of  President Ben Ali to next elections

Tunis , 21 August 2004-- The Social Democratic Movement, one of Tunisia 's opposition parties, announced its endorsement of the candidacy of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to next presidential elections.

The position party 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. One of them is Mr Mohamed Bouchiha, secretary general of the Popular Unity Party (PUP). The second declared candidate is Mr Mounir Beji, the president of the Social Liberal Party (PSL). The third to announce his candidacy was Mr Mohamed Ali Halouani, representing "Ettajdid" party (former communist).

The incumbent, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has announced last July his acceptance of his party's decision to nominate him as its candidate for next elections.

During last presidential elections, in 1999, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was challenged by two opposition leaders but overwhelmingly won the vote.

Reforms have been introduced to prepare for the 2004 elections. Adopted provisions include the introduction of a two-round system for elections, establishing a maximum age ceiling of 75 years for candidacy to presidential elections, and easing the conditions for running for the office of President.

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.