Tunisia’s first democratic presidential election will be decided in a runoff next month between the two leading candidates, President Moncef Marzouki and Beji Caid Essebsi, a former prime minister, the election board announced on Tuesday. Preliminary results of the first round, held on Sunday, showed Mr. Essebsi in first place with 39.46 percent of the vote, and Mr. Marzouki second with 33.43 percent. The two front-runners will face each other in a runoff because no candidate secured a majority in the race. Given that only six percentage points separated them in the first round, the runoff may well be a closer contest than expected. It has already reopened the deep divisions in Tunisian society between secularists and Islamists and could frustrate hopes of a national unity government between the two main blocs in Parliament: Mr. Essebsi’s party, Nidaa Tounes, and the main Islamist party, Ennahda. Even before the presidential results were announced, Mr. Essebsi lashed out at Mr. Marzouki and accused Ennahda of supporting him despite its public stance of not endorsing a candidate.
“We need to know that those who voted for Marzouki are the Islamists who were organized to vote for him,” he told RMC, a French radio station. He went on to list groups: “The officials of Ennahda, parties that are more extremist, also Salafist jihadists, and also the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution, and all these are violent parties. It is normal that they align in this way.”
Mr. Marzouki almost certainly enjoyed support from Islamists even without any public endorsement from Ennahda. If the party openly gets behind Mr. Marzouki in the runoff and he collects supporters from some of the other candidates, he could close the gap with Mr. Essebsi, according to some analysts.
Full Article: Runoff Will Decide President of Tunisia – NYTimes.com.