Tunisia, the cradle of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, voted Sunday in its second free presidential elections that ended with two surging political outsiders claiming they should advance to a second round.
Ballots for the first-round poll were still being tallied into Sunday night, but private exit polls indicated the top finishers were independent candidate Kais Said and jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, who remained behind bars as his team celebrated the results.
Preliminary official results are not expected until September 17, after which the top two candidates would likely advance to a run-off.
Said, a conservative constitutional law professor that seeks a complete overhaul of Tunisia’s economic and diplomatic strategy, told Tunisian media that his “win brings a big responsibility to change frustration to hope.”
“It is a new step in Tunisian history,” he told Radio Mosaique. “it is like a new revolution."
Click Here: cheap nrl jerseys
Karoui’s campaign team, which claims his imprisonment since August 26 on charges of money laundering and tax evasion is a behind-the-scenes effort by the government to hurt his bid, said the outcome vindicated widespread popularity of the media mogul, who has run on an anti-poverty platform.
“We reached this result without Karoui being on the campaign trail. That’s how popular he is,” Samy Achour, a senior member of the political commission of Karoui’s Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) party told The Telegraph.
“The bottom line is… we go to the second round.”
The expected first-round results jolted a political establishment that has been blamed for failing to reverse a steady economic downturn that has hurt Tunisians’ quality of life.
“Tunisians are fed up with the system – a system that has failed to improve the economy or fulfill people’s basic needs,” Sharan Grewal, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Telegraph.
“They are accordingly looking to political outsiders to shake up the system. Neither Karoui nor Said have ever held political office, and they are promising to stand up for Tunisians who have been neglected by the establishment.”
Tunisia’s independent election authority (ISIE) said final voter turnout was around 45%, down from 65% in the 2014 presidential race when there were some 2 million fewer registered voters.
ISIE President Nabil Baffoun cautioned that their institution was the only one authorised to release final results.
If no candidate secures an outright majority, Tunisia’s top two contenders will advance to a presidential run-off, to be held by November 3.