Tunisia’s biggest political organisation, Ennahdha, has nominated its vice president Abdel Fattah Mourou as the party’s candidate for president, pitting him against former President Moncef Marzouki, who is also seeking the post for a second time.
It is the first time that Ennahdha has put up a nominee for the post since the country transitioned to democracy after the 2011 revolution.
Mourou, 71, a lawyer, will run in elections due to be held two months early on September 15, following the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi last month.
Earlier on Tuesday, Marzouki announced in a radio interview that he wants to return to his old position, which he occupied in an interim capacity from 2011 to 2014.
Marzouki is backed by an opposition alliance called Another Tunisia.
Candidates have until August 9 to submit their applications to run for president. The Electoral Commission is scheduled to announce the final list of candidates on August 14.
Liberal Prime Minister Youssef Chahed will also stand, his Tahaya Tounes party said last week, making him one of the likely frontrunners to succeed Essebsi.
Another candidate who has announced his intention to run is former Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa.
Essebsi was chosen in the first democratic presidential election in 2014.
One of Ennahdha’s most moderate leaders, Mourou has long demanded reforms to the party to make it more open and to distance it from the Muslim Brotherhood in other Arab countries.
Critics, however, say Mourou is two-faced and holds contradictory positions on the role of Islam in society.
“Mourou is a highly regarded figure in Tunisia, he is able to unite Tunisians and to find consensus between rivals. This is what Tunisia needs now,” Imed Khmiri, a senior Ennahdha official, told Reuters news agency.
Mourou is currently acting speaker of parliament after former Speaker Mohamed Ennaceur became interim president.
Tunisia’s president mainly has authority over foreign and defence policies, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.