Independent candidate Kais Saied and imprisoned media mogul Nabil Karoui have advanced to a run-off after obtaining the most votes in Tunisia’s September 15 presidential election.
The official announcement by the country’s electoral commission on Tuesday confirmed constitutional law professor Saied won 18.4 percent of the vote while Karoui, owner of popular television station Nessma TV, garnered 15.6 percent.
Ennadha’s Abdelfattah Mourou came in third with 12.9 percent.
Both front runners – though very different – were seen as outsiders, drawing “anti-system” votes from an electorate disillusioned with the status quo.
Mistrust of the political establishment runs high in Tunisia, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the cost of living has risen by almost a third since 2016.
Saied, a fiercely independent academic, advocates radical decentralisation of power, with local democracy and the ability to remove elected officials from office during their mandates.
Karoui, who built his appeal on high-profile charity campaigns, is under investigation for alleged money laundering and has been in pre-trial detention since August 23.
He denies all wrongdoing and his supporters attribute his arrest to political manipulation.
He was unable to take part in televised debates before the vote and electoral monitors have voiced concern that voters have been deprived of a chance to hear him campaign.
The run-off vote will take place before October 23, the day when the interim leader Mohamed Ennaceur’s mandate expires.
Tunisia will hold legislative elections on October 6.
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