In Summary
  • Law professor Kais Saied and jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui each claimed to be in pole position citing exit polls ahead of preliminary results expected to be announced on Tuesday.
  • It is the country's second free presidential poll since the 2011 Arab Spring.
  • Turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in a first round in 2014.
  • Majority of the candidates favoured an anti-establishment identity as distrust of the political elite has been deepened by an unemployment rate of 15 percent and a rise in the cost of living by close to a third since 2016.
  • The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.

Tunis,

Two anti-establishment candidates in Tunisia's divisive election claimed Sunday to have won through to a runoff, hours after polling closed in the country's second free presidential poll since the 2011 Arab Spring.

In a sign of voter apathy, especially among the young, turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in a first round in 2014.

Kais Saied, a 61-year-old law professor and expert on constitutional affairs who ran as an independent, claimed to be in pole position.

He finished "first in the first round", he said, citing exit polls ahead of preliminary results expected to be announced on Tuesday.

There was also an upbeat atmosphere at the party headquarters of jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, behind bars due to a money laundering probe, as hundreds of supporters celebrated after he also claimed to have reached the second round.

Other prominent candidates in the first round included Abdelfattah Mourou, heading a first-time bid for Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

OFFICIAL RESULTS

Ennahdha insisted it would wait for the official results.

"Only the elections board gives the results," said Ennahdha MP and Mourou's campaign director, Samir Dilou.

"I do not doubt the work of the polling institutes, (but) it is not their role to impose a certain truth on the public," he told reporters.

Chahed's popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living.

The prime minister has also found himself having to vehemently deny accusations that Karoui's detention since late August was politically inspired.

VOTER APATHY

"Young people of Tunisia, you still have an hour to vote!" ISIE head Nabil Baffoun had urged before the close of Sunday's vote.

"We must leave our homes and vote – it's a right that we gained from the 2011 revolution which cost lives," Baffoun added, visibly disappointed by the turnout.

However, he later said that the turnout of 45 percent was "an acceptable level".

At polling stations visited by AFP journalists, there was a high proportion of older voters, but few young people.

INTENSE CAMPAIGNS

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