Sunday election is the country’s second free vote for head of state since the 2011 Arab Spring.
According to the provisional results released by the electoral commission, ISIE, Kais Saied secured 18.9 percent on Monday night, ahead of imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 15.5 percent. Neither candidate has ever held political office.
Karoui’s arrest in the run-up to the election cemented his status as an outsider, despite being a key longtime supporter of President Beji Caid Essebsi, whose death on July 25 brought forward the polls.
Saied, a fiercely independent academic, advocates a radical decentralization of power, with local democracy and the ability to remove elected officials from office during their mandates.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy secured only 7.4 percent of the vote, trailing both Ennahdha party candidate Abdelfattah Mourou and former defense minister Abdelkarim Zbidi.
In Tunisia, the president is head of state; oversees defense, foreign relations, and national security; can dissolve parliament; chairs the national security council; and is commander in chief of the armed forces.