Tunisians have voted in an election almost certain to extend the rule of President Zine al’Abidine Ben Ali. The 73-year-old has run the North African country for over two decades.
However his electoral success is being marred by accusations by international rights groups of stifling the opposition and creating an atmosphere of repression. Tunisia’s most prominent rival candidates are not taking part in the election and of Ben Ali’s three challengers on the ballot paper, two rarely criticise the president and the third has acknowledged he cannot win. The west sees the incumbent president as a staunch ally in the fight against Islamist militants and many voters credit him with making the North African country one of the most prosperous and political stable in the region.