An official under Tunisia’s former hardline ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has come out on top in the country’s first free presidential election.
Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old anti-Islamist leader, won 39.46% of Sunday’s vote, beating incumbent interim President Moncef Marzouki, who scored 33.43%.
The preliminary results mean a second round run-off will be held before the end of December, as no candidate reached the overall majority needed.
Essebsi heads the secularist party Nidaa Tounes which won October’s parliamentary election in Tunisia, beating the Islamist party Ennahda, which led Tunisia’s last government. It did not field a candidate in the presidential poll.
Sunday’s vote, judged transparent by EU monitors, is being hailed as the final step in Tunisia’s transition to full democracy following the 2011 revolution that ousted long-time ruler Ben Ali.