Tunisia is getting ready for its presidential elections in September following the death of the country’s first democratically elected leader, 92-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi.
Several presidency candidates are gearing up for the race, including local bellydancer and singer Nermine Sfar.
On Tuesday, Sfar announced her plans to run for the role, adding that she is gathering signatures to formally submit her candidacy.
“Yes, I am running for president so that I can expose the criminals who hide behind fake posts and values,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.
In statements to local media, she added that under her rule, “Tunisia will be better than Italy.”
“It will become a country of art and freedom. People will no longer think about leaving it,” she stated.
In her post, the performer promised people that if elected, she will lower the price of bread across the country and enact a law to give women two-thirds of inheritance, rather than the traditional Islamic one-third. She also added that she plans to ban the hijab and impose the traditional Tunisian headscarf known as the “safseri” instead.
One of Sfar’s pledges also states that she will fine men who promise women to marry them but don’t go through with it.
The dancer’s candidacy announcement caused quite the stir on Tunisian social media and everyone had things to say about it.
Some are all for Sfar as president
Others, not so much
“Is she serious or is this a joke?”
A few people took Sfar’s post lightly
“She didn’t come up with a solution for high unemployment rates.”
Many criticized the dancer for saying she’d ban the hijab
“Banning the hijab? Changing inheritance laws? And you want God to be with you to help you succeed?”
Tunisia’s presidency candidates are pretty diverse
Tunisia is considered to be one of the only democracies to emerge in the wake of the Arab spring. It therefore comes as no surprise that those running for the country’s presidency come from diverse backgrounds.
Earlier this year, the president of LGBTIQ+ group Association Shams, Mounir Baatour, announced plans to run for the presidential elections. In doing so, it will be the first time an openly gay man enters the race for president in the Arab world.
In 2013, Baatour was arrested for alleged sodomy under the country’s anti-sodomy laws. In an interview with French Le Point, Baatour said “homosexuals are citizens without rights in Tunisia.” And it looks like he wants to pave the road to equality.
A lawyer by profession and the head of the opposition Liberal Party, the hopeful candidate said that “after long years in the fight for minority right, I have understood that no one can do the job better than me.”
In recent weeks, Baatour revealed he had obtained the necessary approvals to run for the upcoming presidential elections; he gathered 19,926 votes out of the 10,000 necessary to present his candidacy.
“Tunisia needs a democratic program that can include the different identities, cultures, beliefs and languages of this country. Our program aims to democratize power, strengthen the Parliament and give more weight to local institutions,” he wrote in a Facebook post back in June.
The country still criminalizes homosexuality under Article 230, which features punishments of up to three years in prison. This law and the discrimination members of the local LGBTIQ+ community continue to face has motivated activists including Baatour to fight for change.