Tunisia’s Anti-Islamist Candidate Leading Incumbent in Presidential Election

Beji Caid Essebsi

The head of Tunisia’s anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party, Beji Caid Essebsi, is leading the country’s presidential election with 39.46 percent of the votes, a full six percentage points ahead of incumbent Moncef Marzouki, AFP reported Tuesday.

Sunday marked the first free election in Tunisia since that country’s independence from France in 1956. AFP called the election a milestone for Tunisia, after the ouster of dictator Ben Ali started a chain reaction across the Arab world, with several dictators being toppled by their subjects who demanded democracy.

Left wing candidate Hamma Hammami is third with 7.82 percent, London-based Islamist entrepreneur Hechmi Hamdi follows with 5.75 percent, and wealthy businessman and football club president Slim Riahi collected 5.55 percent, according to AFP

It is almost inevitable that a second round of voting will be held next, because no candidate has managed to pick up even close to 50 percent of the vote. The date will depend on whether or not any candidates would appeal the results.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Sunday’s vote an “historic moment” and pledged Washington’s support.

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