Tunisians have voted in the final round of a presidential election between two political newcomers on Sunday, October 13th, giving a landslide 76.9% win for independent candidate Kais Saied.
Saied, previously a professor of constitutional law, became the seventh president of Tunisia and the country’s second freely elected president since 2011.
Born on February 22nd, 1958 in the town of Beni Khiar on the Cap Bon peninsula in Nabeul governorate into a modest and intellectual family, Saied received his diploma from the International Academy for Constitutional Law in Tunisia when he was 28 years old.
Saied worked as a law professor at the University of Sousse and became head of the Common Law department before transferring to the Faculty of Juridical, Political and Social Sciences of Tunis from 1999 to 2018.
His uncle, Hicham Saied, was the first paediatric surgeon in Tunisia, known worldwide for separating Siamese twins in the 1970s.
Saied was not known as a politician, but he was well known for his televised interventions in the field of constitutional law, particularly during the debates surrounding the constitution's development and amendments.
He has gained unsuspected popularity thanks to an incomparable diction and a mastery of the Arabic language.
He is married and has three children.
The law professor stirred controversy for the first time after he was asked what stage the draft constitution was in and responded, "It has been eaten by a donkey.”
Saied became secretary-general of the Tunisian Association of Constitutional Law between 1990 and 1995, when he was then promoted to vice president of the organisation.
He also served as a legal expert for the Arab League and the Arab Institute for Human Rights, and also as a member of the expert committee that was formed to offer comments to Tunisia’s draft constitution in 2014.
As a presidential candidate, one of his policies included support for allowing citizens to recall their elected officials, which is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before that official's term has ended.
Saied also stressed during his presidential debates that many of Tunisia's current issues were due to "non-respect for many constitutional laws."
"I did not make traditional promises or a traditional programme... but new ideas that can be realised. Today we entered a new stage in the history of Tunisia," Saied said in press remarks after the first round of the election in September.
He has urged a crackdown on foreign money in Tunisia, including on spending by non-government and civil society organisations, which he sees threatening Tunisian society.
With politicians in Tunis dominating the post-revolutionary era, Saied stresses that "power must belong to people directly.”
Running as an independent social conservative, Saied was one of the first declared candidates in the 2019 Tunisian presidential election.
He received 620,711 votes in the first round of the 2019 Tunisian presidential election, coming in first place and qualifying him for the second round to face his opponent, Nabil Karoui, who received less than 27.5% of the vote.