Tunisia to hold presidential runoff on Dec. 21

Campaigning will begin on Tuesday and last until midnight on December 19

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Moncef Marzouki and Beji Caid Essebsi are to face off on December 21 in Tunisia’s second round of presidential voting to decide who leads the nation that sparked the Arab Spring.

“Voting will take place on December 21,” the head of the ISIE electoral organising body, Chafik Sarsar, told a news conference on Monday.

He said citizens living abroad will be able to cast their ballots on December 19, 20 and 21.

Campaigning will begin on Tuesday and last until midnight on December 19, Sarsar said, urging the candidates and the media to respect electoral campaign rules given “the importance of this historic moment”.

Neither incumbent Marzouki nor 88-year-old political veteran Essebsi won an overall majority in the first round of polling on November 23.

The final results from the first round, released on Monday, showed Essebsi ahead with 39.46 percent of votes cast and Marzouki on 33.43 percent.

The election in the North African nation is the first time its people have been able to vote freely for their head of state since independence from France in 1956.

Twenty-seven candidates stood in the first round of the milestone election in Tunisia, where the ouster in 2011 of long-time strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali set off a chain of revolts that saw several Arab dictators toppled by citizens demanding democratic reform.

The country’s leaders pride themselves on the fact that Tunisia has been largely spared the bloodshed that has hit other Arab Spring states such as Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

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