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Updated: October 27, 2009 03:17 IST

Fifth term for Ben Ali

AP
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Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali waves from his car as he arrives at a campaign rally on October 11, 2009, in Rades, outside Tunis. Ben Ali, in power since 1987, has won his fifth term albeit with a reduced majority.
AP
Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali waves from his car as he arrives at a campaign rally on October 11, 2009, in Rades, outside Tunis. Ben Ali, in power since 1987, has won his fifth term albeit with a reduced majority.

Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was re-elected for a fifth term with an overwhelming 89 per cent of the vote — his weakest performance yet but more than enough to show his solid grip on the nation.

The results announced by the Interior Ministry on Monday from Sunday’s voting reflect timid gestures toward Mr. Ben Ali’s rivals in this year’s race to lead this Mediterranean vacation haven.

Mr. Ben Ali was last re-elected in 2004 with more than 94 per cent of votes — a drop from his previous victories of between 99.2 and 99.7 per cent. He took power in a bloodless coup in 1987.

In Sunday’s vote, runner-up Mohamed Bouchiha won 5.01 per cent and Ahmed Inoubli 3.8 per cent, but both were viewed as largely cosmetic opposition.

Hard-line opposition groups and Islamists are outlawed and did not take part in the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Many voters see continuity as a good thing in Tunisia, a strong U.S. and European ally and a relatively secular, moderate and stable outpost in the Arab world.

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