Supporters of Tunisian President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali are predicting he will seek another mandate when his current term ends in 2009. The 71-year-old celebrates 20 years in power today. But critics say his continued leadership risks perpetuating an authoritarian system with tight controls on politics and the media.
When he took over the reins of power from President Habib Bourgiba on November the 7th, 1987, Ben Ali stated that Tunisia would never again have a president-for-life. He had been due to retire in 2004 but changes to the constitution allowed him to run for a further two terms.
He has yet to confirm he wants to continue leading the prosperous North African country of ten million.
The government insists it is committed to further democracy and liberty. But opponents say another term for Ben Ali would push the country towards a quasi-monarchical system.
Pro-government outlets have been praising Ben Ali as the “President of Change”. But, while freedom of opinion and expression is enshrined in the Tunisian constitution, campaigners say those who violate the strict media regulations face stiff fines or even prison.