Kais Saied leads in Tunisian presidential polls

TUNIS, Tunisia

Supporters of independent candidate Kais Saied celebrated Sunday after preliminary results showed him as the frontrunner in Tunisia’s presidential race despite a low-key campaign.

Polling firm Sigma Conseil said Saied had secured 19.5% of the vote. Nabil Karoui, representing his Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) party, came in second with 15.5% while Ennahda party’s candidate Abdelfattah Mourou received 11%.

With more than half the votes counted, the results were essentially confirmed Monday by the Independent High Electoral Commission.

But who is Kais Saied, who has captured the hearts of many Tunisians and won their confidence, defeating the candidates of all prominent parties and bringing him closer to taking up residency in Carthage Palace?

“I don’t sell illusions to the Tunisian people. My election program is very clear, which states that the people are the source of all power, the constitution must be consented to by all and there is nothing called a ‘civil state’ or ‘religious state’,” he said recently.

With these words, Saied described his program to the Tunisian people.

A nonaffiliated candidate who has never adhered to any Tunisian party and a strong defender of the achievements of the country’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution, Saied believes “Tunisian parties cannot give more to Tunisians and did not achieve any of the people’s aspirations.”

He believes it is time to return power to the hands of the people, and this is exactly what he expressed through his campaign slogan “the people want”.

Saied said he refused several high positions offered during the era of ousted president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, whose policies he opposed, and always called for funds stolen by former officials to be returned to the people.

Also, during the rule of late President Beji Caid Essebsi, Saied opposed his efforts towards improving equality between men and women in inheritance rights, defending his position by saying that “since there is clear wording in the Holy Quran on this subject, there is no need for interpretation.”

Education and career

Saied was born on Feb. 22, 1958 in Tunis. He obtained a diploma in International Public Law, one in Constitutional Law and another in Humanitarian International Law in Italy.

He began his professional career in 1986 as a lecturer in Sousse city east of Tunisia then moved to Tunis to work at the Faculty of Juridical, Political and Social Sciences. He also worked with the Arab Institute for Human Rights from 1993 to 1995.

Since 1997, he has been a member of the International Academy of Constitutional Law and is currently head of an independent center for constitutional law.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this article from Ankara
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