Anti-Islamist Essebsi wins Tunisia presidential vote
TUNIS - Agence France-Presse
Head of the Tunisian ISIE elections body, Chafik Sarsar and ISIE fellow members applaud in front of a giant screen during a press conference on Dec. 22 to announce that anti-Islamist politician Beji Caid Essebsi won Tunisia's presidential election.Anti-Islamist politician Beji Caid Essebsi won Tunisia's presidential election with 55.68 percent of the vote, beating incumbent Moncef Marzouki, the electoral commission said on Dec. 12.
Essebsi, an 88-year-old veteran of previous governments, becomes the first president freely elected by Tunisians since independence from France in 1956.
A former prime minister, he clinched 1.7 million of votes cast against Marzouki's more than 1.3 million in Sunday's runoff, electoral commission chief Chafik Sarsar told a news conference.
Turnout in the second round was 60.1 percent, he added.
The election is seen as a landmark for democracy in the North African nation where the Arab Spring was born, and set Tunisia apart from its neighbours where turmoil persists despite popular uprisings that toppled veteran dictators.
The first round on November 23 saw Essebsi take 39 percent, six percentage points ahead of 69-year-old former rights activist Marzouki, who was installed by parliament two months after December 2011 polls.
The campaign was marked by mudslinging, with Essebsi refusing to debate with Marzouki, calling his opponent an "extremist".
Essebsi insists that Marzouki represents Islamists, charging that they had "ruined" the country since the 2011 revolution which toppled veteran ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring.
Marzouki in turn accused Essebsi, a senior official under previous regimes, of wanting to restore the old guard deposed in the revolution.