Conservative professor wins Tunisia’s election

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Tunisian presidential candidate Kais Saied reacts after exit poll results were announced in a second round runoff of the presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia October 13, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Tunisian presidential candidate Kais Saied reacts after exit poll results were announced in a second round runoff of the presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia October 13, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Thousands of supporters of presidential candidate Kais Saied thronged the grand boulevards of central Tunis in celebration late on Sunday after two exit polls said he was elected by a landslide.

Official results will not be published until Monday and Saied’s opponent, the media mogul Nabil Karoui, has left the door open to an appeal.

Sunday’s vote was only Tunisia’s second free presidential election and came after years of economic frustrations that overshadowed the legacy of the 2011 revolution which threw out autocratic rule and inspired the “Arab spring”.

Saied, a retired law professor backed by both Islamists and leftists, spent barely any money on an election campaign that has seized the imagination of voters with its promise to bring back the values of the 2011 uprising.

“We need to renew confidence between the people and the rulers,” Saied said in televised comments after two separate exit polls gave him more than 70% of the vote.

If he is confirmed as president, Saied will face a difficult moment in Tunisian political history.

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