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Tunisia: Anti-Islamist Béji Caïd Essebsi, on Course to Win Presidency as Rival Moncef Marzouki Clings on.

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tunisia election

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.


Written by Andrew Coates

December 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

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  1. Anti-Islamist Essebsi wins Tunisia’s presidential runoff.

    Beji Caid Essebsi, a veteran politician and leader of Tunisia’s secular Nidaa Tounes party, won the country’s first free presidential election, defeating incumbent Moncef Marzouki with 55.68 percent of the vote, official results showed on Monday.

    The ballot capped a largely successful transition to democracy for the cradle of the Arab Spring, whose ouster of former strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 inspired similar revolts across North Africa and the Middle East.

    Marzouki received 44.32 percent of the vote, according to the official results. He later conceded defeat to his rival, congratulating him on his election victory. A first round of voting on November 23 had seen Essebsi in the lead with 39 percent of the vote, six points ahead of Marzouki.

    A former official in Ben Ali’s administration, Essebsi campaigned on the promise to restore the “prestige of the state”. He claimed victory shortly after polls closed in Sunday’s presidential runoff, dedicating his win to the “martyrs of Tunisia”.

    Critics of Essebsi, 88, link him to the country’s authoritarian past and see his return as a setback to the 2011 uprising that ousted Ben Ali. Since then, the country has approved a new constitution as well as held free parliamentary and presidential elections.

    Essebsi’s secular party won a parliamentary vote in October, defeating the Islamist Ennahda party that won Tunisia’s first legislative election in 2011 following Ben Ali’s ouster.

    Riots erupted in the southern city of Hamma on Sunday, with police firing teargas to disperse hundreds of youths who burned tyres and blocked streets in protest against Essebsi after he declared himself winner.

    “Hundreds of angry youths upset over Essebsi’s victory declaration set fire to tyres in the streets of the city while police fired teargas and arrested several youths,” Hamma resident Ammar Giloufi said. “All shops are closed. They are chanting ‘No to the old regime’.”

    Although Tunisia has largely avoided the bitter post-revolt divisions that trouble Egypt and neighbouring Libya, tensions nevertheless flared between Islamists and secularists after the 2011 rebellion in one of the Arab world’s most secular nations.”


    Andrew Coates

    December 22, 2014 at 6:26 pm

  2. […] Source: Tunisia: Anti-Islamist Béji Caïd Essebsi, on Course to Win Presidency as Rival Moncef Marzouki Cli… […]

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