– (GIN) – Tunisians, the first people to launch an “Arab Spring” revolution that ousted a despot, returned to power a member of the ousted regime. They cast ballots on Sunday in the nation’s first free presidential poll – and the outcome surprised many.
Veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi of the secular Call for Tunisia (“Nidaa Tounes”) party received 55% of the vote in Sunday’s run-off. His opponent, Moncef Marzouki, managed to win only 44% of the vote. Marzouki, 67, a former exile, has conceded defeat and congratulated Essebsi on Facebook.
The 88 year old Essebsi served under the one-party rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who fled the country in January 2011 after 23 years of dictatorial rule.
“I dedicate my victory to the martyrs of Tunisia,” Essebsi said on a TV interview. “I thank Marzouki, and now we should work together without excluding anyone.”
The vote seemed to send a message that moderate-minded Tunisians did not want a religious regime along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Ennahda party, an Islamist group which held power briefly on the abdication of Pres. Ben Ali, was disappointed with the election results but congratulated Essebsi on his victory and pledged to work with him.
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