A supporter of Beji Caid Essebsi holds a campaign poster outside his party headquarters after he was elected Tunisian President, Dec.22, 2014 in Tunis. (AP/Hassene Dridi)
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Veteran Tunisian politician Beji Caid Essebsi won the country's first free presidential election in the final step of a transition to democracy after an uprising that ousted autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 .Essebsi, a former Ben Ali official, beat rival Moncef Marzouki with 55.68 percent of the vote against 44.32 percent in Sunday's runoff ballot between the two men, according to results released Monday by electoral authorities. A former parliament speaker under Ben Ali, Essebsi recast himself as an experienced technocrat.Critics of Essebsi, an 88-year-old who has spent five decades in Tunisian politics, see his return as a setback for the 2011 uprising that ousted Ben Ali and put the North African country on the road to full democracy, with a new constitution and free parliamentary and presidential elections.U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Essebsi on his victory and Tunisia on its conclusion of the first presidential election under the new constitution, according to statements.
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