TUNIS — A political grouping backed by a London-based millionaire with close ties to Tunisia's ousted dictator made a surprise entrance on the political stage in early election results released Tuesday.
Lists of independent candidates grouped under the Popular Petition for Liberty, Justice and Development backed by Hechmi Haamdi, won five out of 39 seats in five domestic polling districts whose provisional tallies were announced by the ISIE electoral body in Tunis.
They included Tunisia's second city of Sfax.
A former Islamist party supporter turned ally of deposed leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Haamdi is known in Tunisia through his "al-Mustakillah" television station, broadcast via satellite from London and popular at home.
His political grouping was not widely considered a serious election contender.
Tunisian journalists at the ISIE press centre reacted with consternation at the announcement.
"This is the worse surprise of these results. A pro-Ben Ali on the political scene. It is shameful. He will never do anything for Tunisia," Houda Trabelsi of the Magharebia information site told AFP.
Advocates have lodged a complaint with the ISIE for alleged violations of electoral rules by candidates of Haamdi's grouping, the TAP news agency said, without giving details.
And in Paris, a satellite body of the ISIE said Monday it would file a complaint against Haamdi "for non respect of the electoral code", claiming a known ex-member of Ben Ali's Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD) was among the candidates he was backing.
RCD office bearers have been barred from contesting elections in Tunisia.
It also claimed Haamdi had used his television network to broadcast his electoral message "to the entire world", in contravention of a campaign ban that entered into force the day before the historic polls.
In his election campaign, Haamdi had promised free medical care for all and a payment of 200 dinars (about 100 euros) for each of an estimated 500,000 unemployed Tunisians in return for community service.
He also promised to inject two billion dinars into the state budget.
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