Essebsi wins Tunisian election, riots break out in south

Veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi has won Tunisia's first free presidential election, official results showed, but rioting broke out in one southern city, with police firing teargas to disperse hundreds of youths who burned tyres and blocked streets to demonstrate against the victory of an official from Ben Ali's old guard.

Essebsi wins Tunisian election, riots break out in south

World Bulletin/News Desk

Veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi won Tunisia's first free presidential election, beating rival and incumbent Moncef Marzouki with 55.68 percent of the vote against 44.32 percent, official results showed on Monday.

The ballot marked the final step in Tunisia's transition to democracy after an uprising that ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and inspired the Arab Spring revolts across North Africa and the Middle East.

Essebsi, a former official in Ben Ali's one-party administration, recast himself as a technocrat and his secular Call for Tunisia party profited from the backlash against the country's first post-revolt government, which many voters blamed for turmoil after 2011.

Tunisian police fired teargas on Monday in a southern city to disperse hundreds of youths who burned tyres and blocked streets to demonstrate against an official from the old guard who declared he had won Sunday's presidential vote, residents said.

The protests in Hamma erupted after veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi declared victory in Sunday's run-off.

Critics of Essebsi, an 88-year-old former parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali, see his return as a setback for the 2011 uprising that ousted the veteran ruler and put the North African country on the road to full democracy, with a new constitution and free parliamentary and presidential elections.

"Hundreds of angry youths upset over Essebsi's victory declaration set fire to tyres in the streets of the city while police fired teargas and arrested several youths," Ammar Giloufi, a local resident, said.

"All shops are closed. They are chanting 'No to the old regime'."

Another resident told Reuters protesters had tried to storm a police station, but had been driven back by teargas. Local police officials could not immediately be contacted.

As frontrunner, Essebsi dismissed critics who said victory for him would mark a return of the old guard. He argued that he was the technocrat Tunisia needed following three messy years of a coalition government.

Marzouki, who had sought refuge in France during the Ben Ali era, painted a potential Essebsi presidency as a reverse for the "Jasmine Revolution" that forced the former autocrat to flee into exile.

Meanwhile, the campaign of interim Tunisian President and presidential hopeful Moncef Marzouki said it had documented "a considerable number of electoral violations" during Sunday's runoff vote, but would await final poll results before taking any formal action.

"The campaign registered a number of violations, which included voter intimidation, tarnishing Marzouki's image, and assaulting his supporters," Marzouki campaign head Naeb Anwar al-Gharbi told The Anadolu Agency.

Al-Gharbi also alleged that the heads of several polling stations had "not been impartial" during the voting process.

The campaign, he added, would deal with the violations "without questioning the poll's integrity."

"If we decide to go to court, it wouldn't be a political move, but rather a decision aimed at safeguarding the integrity of future polls," he stressed.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Aralık 2014, 16:40

Muhammed Öylek