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Kais Saied won the presidential election runoff with more than 72 percent of the popular vote.
Tunisian independent candidate Kais Saied won the presidential election runoff held Sunday in the North African country, with more than 72 percent of the popular vote, according to two exit polls agencies.
Saied, a retired law professor gently nicknamed “Robocop,” for his particular social manners and his way of speaking due to the use of classical Arabic, won against business and media tycoon Nabil Karoui who earned less than 27.5 percent of the vote.
In Habib Bourguiba, the principal and central avenue in the capital Tunis, thousands of people gathered chanted songs and waved flags to celebrate their candidate’s victory.
The election followed a campaign more characterized by personality clashes than political differences.
In a televised political debate held on Friday, both candidates faced each other in an event rarely seen in the Arab world. Saied presented his economic, domestic and foreign policies during the two hours debate; he insisted on his wish to help end the war in neighboring Libya and categorically rejected normalization with Israel.
“I watched the debate and the thinker [Saied] came across far better than the guy who has loads of money [Karoui]”, Taher Weshtati, a voter told the Middle East Eye.
Since the announcement in August of his run for the presidency, Karoui has been mired in controversy. Currently, he faces charges of money laundering and tax fraud, allegations he firmly denies.
Tunisian analyst Sami Hamdi said given the president’s role restrictions, it is unclear whether Saied will be able to keep his promises on.
“Saied was always expected to beat Karoui once he got to the second round. However, his success has created a conundrum. His predecessors [Mocef] Marzouki and [Beji Caid] Essebsi were isolated figures in the presidency, given the supremacy of parliament.”
“Saied is the anti-system candidate, but he oversees a badly divided parliament within which he himself has no representatives...It remains to be seen how he will deliver on the hope he has instilled in large numbers of young voters who voted for him”, the analyst said.