Presidential Election in Tunisia Going to Runoff

The two top presidential campaigns in Tunisia announced that they expect the landmark election for president in Tunisia will be decided in a December runoff.

The Sunday one-day vote that had 22 candidates on the ballot battling one another saw nearly 65% of the electorate turn out to cast their ballot, said TAP, the state run news agency.

Moncef Marzouki, the incumbent president is running on the ballot as an independent, said he would be facing Beji Caid Essebsi a representative of the Nidaa Tounes group in a runoff. Essebsi is 87 years old.

Nidaa Tounes said that Essebsi held a commanding lead over Marzouki his biggest challengers in the vote on Sunday, held more than three years since Zine El Abidine Ben Ali the longtime leaser was ousted in an uprising by the people that sparked the unprecedented protests and unrest across most of the Middle East.

A Nidaa Tounes leader Rafie Bin Ashour said the results were encouraging on Sunday night, noting that the opinion polls showed Essebsi with a lead of close to 10%.

Ashour said the results were just the first round, with the second and final round coming to December.

The election is the last step toward the transformation of the nation in North Africa from a dictatorship to complete democracy after the ouster of Ben Ali.

A victory by Essebsi, who was a Ben Ali minister, would boost the party’s standing after it won last month’s parliamentary elections, defeating the Islamist Ennahda moderate party.

Marzouki, a former activist for human rights, called on his closest opponents Essebsi to have a televised debate with him prior to the runoff vote in December.

While addressing all his supporters on Sunday evening from his campaign headquarters’ balcony, Marzouki hoped his opponent would not evade the challenge of a televised debate.

The Tunisia president will serve a term of five years and govern using a prime minister, who parliament will choose. Ennahda had not mentioned the name of a possible candidate or indicated a preference.

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