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Tunisia election: Marzouki refuses to admit defeat

From: BBC
Moncef Marzouki  and  Beji Caid Essebsi
Moncef Marzouki and Beji Caid Essebsi

Moncef Marzouki has refused to admit defeat in Tunisia's first free presidential election after exit polls suggested Beji Caid Essebsi had won.

The caretaker president, a former exile, said his rival's declaration of victory was "undemocratic".

Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, 88, has been celebrating with supporters, telling them all Tunisians now need to "work together", and promising to bring stability.

Critics say his success marks the return of a discredited establishment.

Official results are not expected until Monday evening. One exit poll gave Mr Essebsi 55.5%, with several others showing similar figures.

The election marks the last stage of Tunisia's move to democracy, after the 2011 overthrow of President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali.

It is the first time Tunisians have been able vote freely for their president since independence from France in 1956.
Mr Marzouki, a 67-year-old human rights activist forced into exile by the Ben Ali government, said the election was too early to call.

"The announcement of victory is undemocratic and we should wait if we want to be a state that respects the rule of law," he told supporters.

"What I want to tell you is that we are victorious, we are victorious , we are victorious. Tunisia has won and you have won. You have won for Tunisia, for democracy and for human rights."

Mr Marzouki has been interim president since 2011 and is more popular in the conservative, poorer south.

He was thought likely to attract support from the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which has played a key role in Tunisian politics since the Arab Spring but did not field a candidate.

Mr Essebsi appeared on television after polls closed on Sunday, saying: "I dedicate my victory to the martyrs of Tunisia."

 


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