Tunisians voted for their next president yesterday in the last round of a series of elections that have tested the young democracy, with citizens rejecting established politicians and a major candidate spending weeks behind bars.
Voting ended at 1700 GMT and a first exit poll was expected at 1900 GMT. The runoff presidential election pitted Kais Saied, an independent law professor, against Nabil Karoui, a media mogul facing corruption allegations, after they won more votes than any of the other 24 candidates in the first round last month.
Preliminary turnout figures suggested yesterday’s contest had grabbed the public imagination more than either September’s first round vote or a parliamentary election a week ago. At 1430 GMT yesterday, turnout was 39.2% according to the electoral commission. By comparison, on the day of the first round vote it said that turnout at 1400 GMT was 27.8%.
At a polling station in the working class Ettadamon district of Tunis, a man stood haranguing passersby, urging them to vote against Karoui, until a policeman asked him to quieten down.
Inside, Hanan Madouri, a 25-year-old call center worker in a big straw hat, said she was voting for Saied, citing the corruption trial hanging over his opponent. “I want to vote for a correct, serious person,” she said.
The two candidates offer starkly different options for president: Saied has spent almost nothing on his campaign, has the backing of both leftists and Islamists, and wants Tunisia to adopt an experimental form of direct democracy.