Tunisia’s presidential election will be held on Sept. 15 following the demise of President Beji Caid Essebsi earlier this year.
Election authorities have confirmed the participation of 26 presidential candidates, including several political heavyweights.
Some 7 million Tunisians are expected to vote to choose a president for the next five years.
Observers expect that the elections will go to a runoff vote if no candidate achieves an absolute majority. The second round is scheduled to take place in early November, following a parliamentary vote in October.
Many observers and opinion polls have shortlisted six candidates as the main contenders for the top government job.
Nabil Karoui is a businessman by profession and owner of Tunisian Nesma TV channel.
He was also a founding member of secularist Nidaa Tounes party in 2012 before he quit three years later.
The 56-year-old is representing the Qalb Tounes party.
He has been a proponent of pro-poor polices, but is currently facing charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
Kais Saied is a constitutional law expert. He is an outspoken critic of corruption and seeks to recover stolen funds from ex-officials.
Abdelfattah Mourou, 70, is a co-founder and vice-president of the Ennahda Party. Currently, he is the acting Tunisian Parliament speaker.
Despite a strong voter base, political analysts see his popularity spiraling downwards due to internal party discords.
Others expect him to reach the second round of vote and view him as a strong presidential candidate.
Tunisia’s Defense Minister AbdelKarim Zbidi is one of the closest figures to late President Essebsi.
He is running as an independent in the election with support from Nida Tounes and Afaq Tounes parties.
In August 2016, Youssef Chahed was assigned by President Essebsi to form the government.
Chahed left ‘Nidaa Tounes’ party in 2018 after a disagreement with the son of Essebsi. He formed his secular party ‘Long Live Tunisia’ in 2019, currently considered by analysts and observers as the country’s second-largest party.
Political analysts believe that Chahed’s popularity has taken a dent as many protests took place against him during his term as prime minister.
Moncef Marzouki was a prominent opposition figure during the rule of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He was Tunisia’s first president after the 2011 revolution before being succeeded by Essebsi.
He is a strong candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections. Marzouki is supported by the ‘Another Tunisia’ alliance formed by two opposition movements, Marzouki’s “Al-Irada Movement” and “Wafa Movement”, launched last May.
Also among the running candidates, Hamadi Jebali, a former Ennahda member who served as prime minister from 2012-2013. Of the two women candidates, there is Abir Moussi which was a supporter of the ousted Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
* Ahmed Asmar contributed to this article from Ankara