Imran bin Hussein does not fulfill any requirement to take part in the race for the presidential palace at Carthage, but despite much mockery, he is vying to be on the starting line alongside his rivals.

Imran bin Hussein does not fulfill any requirement to take part in the race for the presidential palace at Carthage, but despite much mockery, he is vying to be on the starting line alongside his rivals.

On the deadline day for the application submissions, the 34-year-old reclined proudly on a chair facing the officials who make up the Independent High Elections Authority. For weeks, he had been wearing a very large brown suit, brimful of the image of a president ready to win the election on 23 November 2014. Despite his poverty and his inexperience, he is convinced he is the best, most capable, and smartest candidate.

“I do not have the public or National Constituent Assembly’s support,” Imran admitted after submitting his application on 21 September. “I also do not have collateral or funds for the election campaign. I am under the minimum legal age to run for the presidency, but I submitted my application and I will be the next president of Tunisia.”

He also does not appear to think much of his many rivals, who include a number of prominent activists, politicians, businessmen, and lawyers.

Getting support

Since candidates’ submissions began to be accepted, Imran visited the National Constituent Assembly, Tunisia’s parliament, every morning wearing the same brown suit. He would stand for hours waiting for a member of parliament to emerge from the eastern gate to help him get in, since he was not entitled to visit the parliament. Once inside, Imran turned from a mild-mannered man looking for the sympathy of representatives into a would-be president of Tunisia.

He would wander the NCA corridors and halls presenting his agenda to every representative, promising to appoint them as ministers, ambassadors, consuls, and special advisers. He sometimes pleaded for their support, and sometimes demanded it, addressing people from various political sensibilities and backgrounds, while NCA administration employees, journalists, and security personnel sniggered behind him. Some parliamentarians labelled him “the crazy president” or “the obsessed,” as he strode around in his tattered clothes and a small bag filled with underwear and personal papers.

Crazy president

Imran bin Hussein, with his slick hair and brown skin, almost drowning in his suit, is obsessed with the presidency, and is not deterred by the fact that he has not been able to collect any signatures from the people. “I do not have enough money or a car to go round and collect signatures,” he admits, “but I am confident that all Tunisians love me and would vote for me because I am the only one who represents them and will guarantee the recovery of their rights.”

Imran does not even have the money he needs as collateral to run for the presidency – 10,000 Tunisian dinars ($5,560) – never mind the money to finance his campaign. And he knows that since he does not fulfill the legal requirements, his application is likely to be rejected by the IHEA. But that does not stop him announcing that he will be the next president of Tunisia, and declaring his intention to reform the economy, fight terrorism, put young people to work, and lead the country – in apparent ignorance of the limits of the president’s constitutional powers.

Obscure struggler

Imran also claimed he had done a lot for Tunisia despite his young age. He said he had long been an opponent of the president and dictator ousted in the 2011 revolution. “I was a fighter from the first generation who opposed the ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali,” he said. “I was deported to France where I received political asylum and spent hard times in exile. I was one of the most vocal opponents of tyranny.”

He added that he was arbitrarily sacked from his job, and that illegal court rulings were issued against him that the judiciary has never corrected. He also said he had been assaulted by security forces after the revolution, and he condemns the many developments that followed Tunisia’s democratic transition.

Imran also regrets the fact that he couldn’t run in the 2011 parliamentary elections, again for lack of money and popular support. His party is named the New Tunisia, and believes that his agenda can restore security and stability to the country, and that he can infuse economic recovery through his governance ability and the relationships he promises to establish after taking power.

Imran bin Hussein’s candidacy will undoubtedly be rejected, but the young man can at least claim the honour of attempting to enter the race – even if he would inevitably lose.

Imran’s dream of presidency is legitimate. For decades, the palace of Carthage has been forbidden to ordinary Tunisians. Nobody can take away the dreams of this obsessed young man, or suppress his desire to serve his country. But Imran has little notion of the mechanisms, and he will soon have to look for another way to contribute to building the Second Republic of Tunisia.