Tunisia elects new president


Tunisians celebrate the country's first free presidential elections. (Reuters)

Tunisian veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi has won the presidential election with 55.68 percent versus 44.32 percent for his rival Moncef Marzouki, Monday’s electoral results showed.

“I will be president for all Tunisians,” the 88-year-old Essebsi said in a brief speech on state television.

Outside the Nidaa Tounes headquarters in the capital Tunis, several hundred jubilant supporters took to the streets to celebrate with flares and music, waving Tunisia’s red and white national flag and honking car horns.

“He’s the right man for the right time,” said government finance specialist Sana Ben Said at the Essebsi rally.

The election of Essebsi, whose party dominated legislative elections back in October, completes Tunisia’s democratic transition after the overthrow of its dictator in 2011.

Voting was largely pronounced free and fair with a participation rate of 60 percent, less than the nearly 70 percent in the previous round and legislative elections, the Associated Press reported.

In a short television address Marzouki accepted his defeat despite what he said were suspected vote irregularities, which he would not challenge.

“Dr Moncef Marzouki has congratulated Mr Beji Caid Essebsi for his victory in the presidential election,” Marzouki’s campaign manager, Adnene Mancer, wrote on his official Facebook page.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also congratulated Essebsi for winning the presidency.

The European Union also congratulated Essebsi on his victory. 

“Tunisians have written a historic page in the country’s democratic transition,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

Earlier, Essebsi’s campaign team said initial indications showed he had won Sunday’s run-off election by a clear margin over Marzouki, in an announcement that was contested by the rival campaign team of the incumbent president.

Preliminary official results have still to be released by election authorities. But his campaign manager Mohsen Marzouk said “indications” showed Essebsi had won the first free presidential election since the country’s 2011 uprising.

He gave no details, but Tunisian parties often have observers at polling stations to observe preliminary counting.

But Marzouki’s campaign said the announcement was baseless.

Polls opened Sunday in the second round of Tunisia’s first free presidential election, in the final leg of an at times bumpy four-year transition from dictatorship.

The voting was mired by violence early in the day when Tunisian troops killed a gunman and captured three others after they attacked soldiers guarding ballot papers for the country’s presidential vote, the defense ministry said.

The pre-dawn attack targeted a school in the central region of Kairouan where the ballot papers had been stored under army guard.

“The vigilance of the soldiers and the swiftness of their response thwarted this operation and led to the death of a man armed with a hunting rifle and the arrest of three suspects,” ministry spokesman Belhassan Oueslati told AFP.


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