Successful first round of presidential elections marks new phase in Tunisia's democratic transition

"Following on from the success of the parliamentary elections, the proper conduct of the first round of this presidential election marks a new phase of democratic transition," said Jean-Marie Bockel, head of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) delegation which observed the first round of the presidential election on 23 November 2014 in Tunisia.

The PACE delegation praised the professionalism of the Independent High Authority for the Elections, which organised the ballot in a spirit of integrity and full transparency. The conditions appear to be in place for all the candidates to accept the results of voting, as was the case for the parliamentary elections.

The high turnout for the presidential elections is indicative of the high expectation of citizens that the president they elect will be the guarantor of the smooth running and stability of the country's institutions, and will engage in fruitful collaboration with the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, and the government drawn from it, in working to advance Tunisia's economic and social development.

The delegation emphasised that certain aspects of the electoral process could usefully be improved, with expert input where applicable from the Venice Commission. The electoral law should lay down tighter guidelines for funding candidates and election campaigning in future, with emphasis on the transparency of sources and the use and supervision of funding. The law should also be more effective in preventing misuse of administrative resources during election campaigns.

The 11-member PACE delegation was on the ground in Tunisia from 21 to 24 November. It held talks with several presidential candidates, the Chair of the Independent High Authority for the Elections, the Chair of the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication, representatives of the media, civil society and international organisations. On polling day, it split into six teams which observed voting in and around Tunis and also in the governorates of Bizerte, Nabeul, Sfax and Sousse.

The Parliamentary Assembly will follow up its involvement in the parliamentary election process by continuing to actively assist its Tunisian partners in their efforts to consolidate democracy in their country. It will debate the reports on the parliamentary and presidential elections at its January 2015 part-session in Strasbourg.