Exit polls point to Kais Saied as Tunisia’s new president

Kais Saied. [Photo: Social Media]
Kais Saied, a retired law professor with no political experience, has won Tunisia’s presidential election with a landslide victory over his opponent, Nabil Karoui, a wealthy businessman and television tycoon, according to exit polls announced on Sunday night after the second round of voting.

Mr Saied, who has no party, ran as an independent candidate and barely campaigned, was expected to secure between 72 and 77 per cent of the vote according to exit polls by two firms, Emhrod Consulting and Sygma Conseil. Mr Karoui’s share of the vote was projected to range between 23 and 27 per cent.

Official results are expected on Tuesday but the election commission said on Sunday that turnout stood at 57.8 per cent of registered voters.

Mr Karoui, who faces charges of money laundering and tax evasion and was imprisoned until three days before the vote, was reported to have conceded defeat but said he was prevented from having a fair chance. He was arrested in late August and his wife and supporters campaigned on his behalf.

The massive win by a complete outsider such as Mr Saied is a sharp rebuke to politicians of all stripes and to influential elites, analysts say. Until he ran for elections, the law professor was not very well known and the absence of a party or conventional campaigning machine made it difficult to gauge his chances.

Tunisia is seen as the only democracy to emerge from the Arab revolts against dictatorship in 2011, and its elections are recognised as genuine expressions of the people’s will — a rarity in the Arab world. Even so, disillusionment is widespread among Tunisians towards mainstream politicians because of the failure of governments since the revolution to address economic problems and reverse plummeting living standards.

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