Tunisian establishment reels as outsiders claim election win

Tunisian establishment reels as outsiders claim election win
# 16 September 2019 19:48 (UTC +04:00)

Partial election results showed two political outsiders leading the race to become Tunisian president on Monday after exit polls showed them advancing to a second-round runoff next month that could up-end politics in the north African country, APA reports citing Reuters.

With 27% of votes counted, the independent election commission said conservative law professor Kais Saied and detained media magnate Nabil Karoui were leading, with a moderate Islamist candidate slightly behind.

If their lead holds, it would represent an earthquake in Tunisian politics and a strong rejection of successive governments that have struggled to improve living standards or end corruption.

Karoui has for years used his Nessma television station and the charity he founded after his son died to present himself as a champion of the poor and a scourge of government, while his critics describe him as an ambitious, unscrupulous, populist.

He denies all claims of wrongdoing against him, including old tax evasion and money laundering charges for which he was detained late last month and spent election day in jail, calling them an undemocratic plot.

His wealth and massive electoral organization stand in sharp contrast to Saied, who spent so little on his campaign that Tunisians joke it cost no more than a coffee and packet of cigarettes.

Saied, who always speaks as if in a faculty meeting in didactic, ultra-correct formal Arabic, drives a shabby old car and wants to remain in his humble house if elected rather than move into the luxurious presidential palace at Carthage.

A social conservative who backs restoring the death penalty and rejects equal inheritance for men and women, Saied’s main focus is decentralization in a country where politicians in the capital have traditionally dominated.

At 9.30am, Saied was on 19%, Karoui was in second place with 15% and the moderate Islamist Ennahda party candidate Abdelfattah Mourou was on 13%, the official figures showed.