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Tunisia in ‘sprint’ to arrange poll after President dies

The Independent Higher Authority for Elections (ISIE) snapped into action when Essebsi died on July 25, facing immediate pressure from a constitutional deadline and parties seeking favourable dates. The body, whose nine members are elected by parliament, brought the date of scheduled polls forward by two months, fixing the first round for September 15. The constitution stipulates that elections must be held 90 days after a head of state’s death.

The first round of voting will take place just seven weeks after the funeral. In a mid-summer dash, ISIE stocked up on indelible ink and sorted through nearly 100 candidate applications, selecting a final list of 26 hopefuls. “We’re in a sprint to respect the rules,” ISIE spokeswoman Hasna Ben Slimane told the news agency.

“We have to train 55,000 people inspectors and polling station staff,” she said.

“ISIE has experience. It has already organised six elections, but it’s still complicated.”

The body has overseen a series of historic polls following the 2011 overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in an uprising which sparked revolts across the Arab world.

They include Tunisia’s first free election in October 2011 and the first free presidential election in 2014 which brought Essebsi to power.

“ISIE’s reaction after the death of Caid Essebsi is a sign of its maturity,” said history professor Abdeltif Hannachi.

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