Anti-Islamist politician Essebsi elected Tunisia president in first free poll since Arab Spring

Tunisian presidential candidate for the anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party, Beji Caid Essebsi waves to supporters after placing his vote on Dec 21, 2014 in Tunis. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tunisian presidential candidate for the anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party, Beji Caid Essebsi waves to supporters after placing his vote on Dec 21, 2014 in Tunis. -- PHOTO: AFP

TUNIS (Reuters) - Veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi won Tunisia's first free presidential election, beating rival and incumbent Moncef Marzouki with 55.68 per cent of the vote against 44.32 pe rcent, official results showed on Monday.

The ballot marked the final step in Tunisia's transition to democracy after an uprising that ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and inspired the Arab Spring revolts across North Africa and the Middle East.

Mr Essebsi, a former official in Mr Ben Ali's one-party administration, recast himself as a technocrat and his secular Call for Tunisia party profited from the backlash against the country's first post-revolt Islamist government, which many voters blamed for turmoil after 2011.