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Tunisia Votes for First Directly-Elected President

TUNIS �— Tunisians went to the polls on Sunday to vote for their first directly elected president, in the final step to be taken to full democracy after the 2011 revolution that ended the rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. More than three years since overturning Ben Ali's one-party rule, Tunisia has become a model of transition for the region by adopting a new constitution, the politics of compromise and avoiding the turmoil facing its neighbors.

"Another distinguished day in the history of Tunisia," said Mouna Jeballi, voting in Soukra district in Tunis. "Now we are the only country in the Arab world who does not know who their president will be until after the vote is finished."

Nearly 30 presidential candidates are running but the Nidaa Tounes leader, Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old former Ben Ali official, has emerged as a frontrunner alongside the current president, Moncef Marzouki, who warns against the rise of one-party era figures like Essebsi. Turnout looked lighter than the legislative election at polling stations around Tunis early on Sunday. Election officials said around 12 percent of the registered electorate had voted two hours after polling started. Results will be released within 48 hours. But most analysts predict neither Essebsi nor Marzouki will win enough votes to avoid a second round of voting in December.

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- Reuters