Tunisia: Anti-Islamist Béji Caïd Essebsi, on Course to Win Presidency as Rival Moncef Marzouki Clings on.
Secularists Look Set to Win Tunisian Presidency.
The Guardian reports,
The anti-Islamist veteran Beji Caid Essebsi has claimed victory in Tunisia’s first free presidential election.
Tunisians took to the polls on Sunday for the leadership runoff vote, with many calling the ballot a landmark for democracy in the country where the Arab Spring was born.
Official results are not due until Monday evening but unofficial exit polls indicated that Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party had won 55% of the vote, with his rival, the incumbent Moncef Marzouki, on 45%.
Essebsi, 88, appeared before 2,000 supporters who gathered outside his campaign headquarters in the capital Tunis shouting “Long live Tunisia!” and thanked the voters.
However Le Monde states,
Le président sortant, Moncef Marzouki, refuse de reconnaître sa défaite.The outgoing President Moncef Marzouki has refused to accept defeat.
Preliminary results are now in (Tunisia Live):
“10:30 a.m.:Mourakiboun press conference: Preliminary Results Estimation: presidential candidate Beji Caid Essebsi has between 54.1% and 57% of votes, and candidate Moncef Marzouki has between 42.9% and 45.8% of the votes.”
During the campaign Essebsi refused to hold public debates with Marzouki, comparing his opponent to Le Pen and saying that Chirac did not engage in face-top-face exchanges with the leader of the Front National. He called Marouki an «extrémiste» baked by «salafistes jihadistes». (Libération)
His critics point to his period of office as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1981 to 1986 – that is under the Bourguiba (founding figure of an Independent Tunisia) regime, not, during its decades of rule noted for its democratic values. However, after the Jasmine Revolution, Essebsi oversaw the transition to democracy as Prime Minister of Tunisia from 27 February 2011 to 24 December 2011. He is the founder of the Nidaa Tounes party, a secular alternative to the Islamist Ennahda movement, which now has a majority in the Tunisian Parliament.
The BBC last night noted that Essebesi’s support is strongest amongst public sector workers, organised workers, and the intelligentsia – in contrast to the Islamists whose political heartland is in the poor rural south. The Corporation’s journalist observed that with this constituency, if elected President, the leader of Nidaa Tounes would find it hard to implement the “necessary” “reforms” demanded by the international – financial and economic – institutions.
In another important development, last week Tunisians learnt that jihadists who had rallied to the Caliphate and the Islamic State had claimed responsibility for two killings that had shaken the country last year, of Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi (Sidwaya).
Brahmi and Belaïd were leaders of socialist, Arab nationalist and secular parties.
Critics of the previous Ennahda-led government have long attacked the ‘moderate’ Islamists for complacency faced with violent Salafism and for their failure to bring anybody to justice for these murders.