TUNIS - Tunisia will hold the run-off of its first democratic presidential election on Dec. 21, between incumbent Moncef Marzouki and Beji Caid Essebsi, veteran leader of secularist party Nidaa Tounes, electoral authorities said on Monday.
The vote for Tunisia's first directly elected president marks the final step in the North African state's transition to full democracy following the 2011 revolution.
Essebsi narrowly beat Marzouki in the first round of the presidential election -- the first since Tunisia's 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and inspire the Arab Spring revolts. But the two frontrunners failed to win enough votes to avoid meeting again in the December run-off.
"The run-off will be held on Dec. 21, and the electoral campaign will start Dec. 9 through Dec. 19," Chafik Sarsar, the head of Tunisia's electoral commission told a press conference.
Islamist party Ennahda, which won the first parliamentary election after the revolution, did not field a candidate for the presidential vote. But its supporters may be key in deciding who wins the run-off.
A former Ben Ali-era official, Essebsi, 87, has cast himself as an experienced statesman with the skills to manage Tunisia's economy and security, dismissing critics who worry about the return of old regime officials.
Marzouki, a rights activist, says the return of officials from Ben Ali's one-party rule would erode the revolution that ended Ben Ali's regime.