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Tunisian president to be picked in runoff race - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Members of the Tunisian elections body hold a press conference to announce the results of the first round of the presidential election in the capital Tunis, on November 25, 2014. (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Members of the Tunisian elections body hold a press conference to announce the results of the first round of the presidential election in the capital Tunis, on November 25, 2014. (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Tunis, AP—Veteran politician and figure from Tunisia’s old regime, Beji Caid El-Sebsi, will face off against incumbent Moncef Marzouki in a runoff for the country’s presidency two weeks from now that is expected to be close, official election results showed Tuesday.

Sebsi, 87, garnered just over 39 percent of the vote while interim president and former human rights campaigner Marzouki finished with 33 percent, according to results released by the electoral commission for Sunday’s contest between 22 candidates.

With just 6 percent separating the two candidates, who represent wildly divergent views of Tunisia’s future, the runoff set for two weeks from now could be a very tight race.

Tunisians overthrew president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and embarked on a rocky transition that saw an Islamist-led coalition come to power in elections, but was characterized by a failing economy and terrorist attacks.

Sebsi, who held several positions under Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, and later parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali, presented himself as a return to stability. His party, Nidaa Tounes (Tunisian Call), won the most seats in last month’s parliamentary election.

People saw a vote for Sebsi as a way of overcoming the turmoil of the transition and punishing the Islamists for their two years in power.

The Islamist Ennahda Movement didn’t field or endorse a candidate in the presidential elections, but its supporters are believed to be backing Marzouki.

Many Tunisians continue to support Marzouki as an icon of human rights in the country and over fears that Sebsi represents the return of the old one-party state.

The next few weeks are expected to see feverish activity as the candidates will now woo those who voted for the 20 other candidates, particularly left-wing politician Hamma El-Hammami, who came third with nearly 8 percent.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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