December will be the clash of the Titans in Tunisian politics as Essebsi and Marzouki face each other in the second round of the presidential elections after claiming 36.46% and 33.43% respectively. Efforts to get extra votes have already begun as both candidates throw their first punches in the last and final bout.
Essebsi of the Nida Tounes party tried to discredit Marzouki by labeling him as the candidate of the Islamists and extremists. He claimed that “the people who voted for Marzouki were the Islamists… that is to say Ennahda members… but also the jihadist and Salafists.” Essebsi portrays himself as a president who can “restore the prestige of the state” which has been lost to religion.
Marzouki is urging “all democratic forces” with whom he has “campaigned for the past 30 years for a real democracy” to support him in order to “break with the past, for a genuine civil society and for a separation of powers.” With fears that electing Essebsi could lead to an authoritarian rule since his party has won the parliamentary elections, Marzouki is trying to rally support by promising a much more democratic government as president.
The two candidates will have to call on the support of the Left-wing figurehead Hamma Hammami who came third with 7.82%, followed by London-based Islamist entrepreneur Hechmi Hamdi (5.75%) and wealthy businessman and football club president Slim Riahi (5.55%) for the second round.
The international community applauded the environment which surrounded the elections and hoped that the December elections will continue on the same path. Annemie Neyts-Uytterbroeck, head of the EU observer mission in Tunisia, said irregularities were “minor” and “the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly was guaranteed.”