Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali launched his campaign for re-election on yesterday, promising to expand democracy and reduce unemployment if returned to power at an October 25 poll.
Ben Ali, 73, has led the North African country since 1987 and is widely expected to beat three rival candidates, Reuters reports.
“The coming stage will see a greater support from the state for political parties and their press and the media in general,” Ben Ali told thousands of supporters.
Tunisia has been criticised for muzzling the press, stifling free speech and beating and jailing opponent’s accusations the government denies, saying it is committed to progressively establishing a genuine democracy.
Ben Ali came to power in November 1987, when doctors declared the then president-for-life and founder of modern Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, senile and unfit to rule.
Ben Ali, who won 94.4 % of votes in the last election in 2004, said he would reduce the 14 % unemployment rate by creating 425 000 jobs. Tunisia has a population of 10 million people.
“No Tunisian family will remain without job or a source of income for at least one of its members, by the end of 2014,” he said, also promising to aim for a 40 % increase in per capita income.
Tunisia is forecasting economic growth next year of around 4 %, possibly more if there is a global upturn.