Tunisian president re-elected

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The Independent Online

Tunisia's president has been re-elected for a fifth five-year term with 89.62% of the vote, the country's interior ministry announced today.

Video: Tunisia elects Ben Ali, again

It was the lowest percentage of the vote by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali since he took power in a bloodless coup in 1987.

Mr Ben Ali was last re-elected in 2004 with more than 94 per cent of votes - a drop from his previous victories, which fluctuated between 99.2 and 99.7 per cent.

Runner-up Mohamed Bouchiha won 5.01 per cent of the vote and Ahmed Inoubli 3.80 per cent, but both were viewed as largely cosmetic opposition.

The third candidate, Ahmed Brahim of the Ettajdid, or "change" movement, scored 1.57 per cent of the vote.

"At least, we've established the existence of a credible opposition movement in Tunisia," Mr Brahim said in an interview today with The Associated Press. He declined to comment on his score.

The results, which included results from Tunisians voting abroad, were announced by Interior Minister Rafik Haj Kacem at a news conference today.

The turnout rate was 89.45 per cent of Tunisia's 5.3 million voters, authorities said.

Tunisia is expecting 3 per cent growth in gross domestic product this year despite the global recession. The country's poverty rate has dropped below 4 per cent and it is a regional model in terms of literacy, social welfare and the role women play in society.

Rights groups however deplore the country's overbearing police presence and general absence of any real freedom of expression.