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Middle East Amp North Africa
Tunisia set for presidential race run-off
From the Financial Times of Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:07:30 GMT
A man casts his vote at a polling station during Tunisia's presidential election in Sousse November 23, 2014. Tunisians went to the polls on Sunday to vote for their first directly elected president since the 2011 revolution that ended the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. REUTERS/Anis Mili (TUNISIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)©Reuters

A man votes in Tunisia's presidential election

Tunisia’s first ever democratic presidential election is likely to enter a second round as neither of the two leading candidates appeared to have secured an outright majority.

No results have been announced following Sunday’s poll, but officials from the campaigns of Beji Caid Sebsi, the elderly politician seen as the frontrunner, and Moncef Marzouki, the incumbent who has been serving as interim president, were quoted in local media on Monday as saying a run-off, scheduled for December 28, was likely.

According to local press reports, preliminary results suggest Mr Sebsi may have secured about 42 per cent of the vote, with about 34 per cent going to Mr Marzouki.

Hamma Hammami, a communist candidate, was reported to have received 9 per cent.

The election is the final milestone in Tunisia’s political transition almost four years after the revolution that felled long-serving dictator Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Mr Sebsi, who turns 88 this week, is a veteran politician who has taken prominent roles in previous regimes, including interior minister and ambassador to France.

He heads the Nida Tunis party, an alliance of leftists, liberals and old regime figures established in 2012 as a counterbalance to Nahda, the Islamist movement that emerged from decades of repression to win Tunisia’s first elections for a constituent assembly after the revolution.

Nida Tunis came first in parliamentary elections last month, securing 85 of the 217 seats in the assembly, as voters punished Nahda for economic decline and the rise of violent extremists.

Mr Marzouki was an outspoken secular opposition figure during the years of dictatorship who returned from exile after the revolution. He served as interim president under a power-sharing agreement with Nahda during the transition period.

Though Nahda is still a significant force in politics and the second largest bloc in the assembly, the party has refrained from backing any of the contenders in the presidential election, saying it wanted to avoid deepening the polarisation in society.

A Sebsi win, seen as likely, would see Nida Tunis control both government and the president’s office.

A new government is not expected to emerge until after a president has been elected. Although a coalition is likely given that Nida Tunis has only 39 per cent of the seats in the assembly, the party has made it clear that it does not want an alliance with the Islamists.

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