Tunisians head to polls to elect first new president since revolution

Tunisians are going to the polls Sunday in their first presidential election since the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring, a ballot set to round off an often fraught transition to democracy. Among the 27 candidates, the hot favourite is former premier Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran whose anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party won parliamentary elections last month. Others vying for the presidency include reigining President Moncef Marzouki, several ministers who served under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and a lone woman, magistrate Kalthoum Kannou.

It looks like Beji Caid Essebsi and Moncef Marzouki will respectively get the first and second spot in the first round of the presidential elections.

Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa, professor of Public Law at the University of Legal, Political and Social Sciences of Tunis

Some 5.3 million people are eligible to cast ballots, with tens of thousands of police and troops deployed to guarantee security amid fears Islamist militants might seek to disrupt voting. In most of the country, polls opened at 8:00 am (0700 GMT) and close 10 hours later. A run-off vote will be held at the end of December if no one secures an absolute majority. To prevent another dictatorship, presidential powers have been restricted under a new constitution, with executive prerogatives transferred to a premier drawn from parliament’s top party.

The economy… must be tackled head-on because the economic challenges are there and are getting worse in some cases.

Jean-Luc Bernasconi, the World Bank’s chief economist in Tunis