posted at 18:50
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Tunisians elect president for first time
Among the 27 candidates, the hot favourite is former premier Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran whose anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party won parliamentary elections last month. Others vying for the presidency include outgoing President Moncef Marzouki, several ministers who served under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, leftwinger Hamma Hammami, business magnate Slim Riahi and a lone woman, magistrate Kalthoum Kannou. Some 5.3 million people are eligible to cast ballots, with tens of thousands of police and troops deployed to guarantee security amid fears Islamist militants might seek to disrupt voting. Voting will be limited to only five hours in some 50 localities close to the Algerian border, where armed groups are active. A run-off vote will be held at the end of December if no one secures an absolute majority. To prevent another dictatorship, presidential powers have been restricted under a new constitution, with executive prerogatives transferred to a premier drawn from parliament's top party. Supporters argue only he can stand up to the Islamists who first held power in the post-Ben Ali era, but critics charge he is out to restore the old regime, having served under both former presidents. Moderate Islamist party Ennahda, which came second in the legislative election, has not put up a candidate and has invited its members "To elect a president who will guarantee democracy".

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