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Tunisian Election Puts Former Regime Figure In Presidency

A supporter of newly elected Tunisian presidential candidate Beji Caid Essibsi flashes the V-sign from a car as they celebrate the first results of the Tunisian elections in Sousse, Tunisia.

A tense runoff election in Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring in 2011, has ended with a win for Beji Caid Essebsi, a veteran of the country's autocratic regimes. Essebsi defeated interim leader Moncef Marzouki.

Affiliated with the secular-leaning Nidaa Tounes (Tunisia Calls) party, Essebsi won Tunisia's first democratic presidential election by taking more than 55 percent of the vote. Election officials announced the results Monday.

Each candidate had warned that the other would bring new problems to Tunisia, with Essebsi saying Marzouki would encourage extremism and Marzouki saying Essebsi represented a return to Tunisia's past.

From Tunis, NPR's Leila Fadel reports:

"As soon as the results were announced there were reports of rioting in a southern city that supported Essebsi's opponent incumbent Moncef Marzouki.

"A video posted online shows police firing tear gas to disperse protesters. The rioters in Hamma chanted, 'No to the old regime.'

"Essebsi served as speaker of the parliament under ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and also held cabinet posts under Habib Bouguiba.

"Those who voted for him said it was a vote for stability. But his detractors say he represents a return to the old and authoritarian practices of the government that Tunisians ousted. With this win, Essebsi's party controls the presidency and dominates the parliament."

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