- Tunisian President's intentions to secure a fifth mandate in office had been revealed by his confirmation to contest 2009 presidential polls.
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali made the announcement as he addressed the fifth congress of his ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally.
Ben Ali ascended to power on 7 November 1987 after he had ousted Habib Bourgiba, cranky and aging leader, in a bloodless coup. Lauded for his liberal leadership style, especially on women and religious issues, Mr. Bourgiba had ruled Tunisia since the country gained independence from France in 1956.
At the time of coup, Ali, who had formerly served as Ministers of Interior, Internal and National Security under Bourgiba, was a Prime Minister who had enjoyed strong connections in the army.
Last February, Mr. Ali's party endorsed his nominations for the next presidential elections. This appeal was again given backing at the party's central committee meeting on 15 July.
In 2002, Tunisians voted in favour of a constitutional change that allowed Mr. Ali to seek a fifth mandate. With a population of 10 million people, Tunisia's ruling party has a membership of more than two million.
Born on 3 September 1936 in Hammam Susa, Ben Ali has been praised for turning around the economic engines of the North African country, amid cries of state-sponsored gross violations of human rights.
Since he first stood for elections in 1989 after a two-year transition period, Ben Ali had been winning with overwhelming majority, and in most cases, scoring over 99% of the ballot. He polled 94.5% on 24 October 2004, compared to Bouchiha's 3.8% and Mohamed Ali Halouani's 1%.
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