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Tunissian president will step down after vote

Tunisia's interim president Foued Mebazaa said he would step down after the Arab Spring's historic first election today nine months after the toppling of strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

world Updated: Oct 23, 2011 07:42 IST

Tunisia's interim president Foued Mebazaa said he would step down after the Arab Spring's historic first election on Sunday nine months after the toppling of strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

"I will recognise the results whoever wins and whatever the colour of the majority (in the future assembly)", Mebazaa told the Arabic language Assabah appearing today.

"I shall hand over power to whoever is chosen by the constituent assembly as the new president of the republic," he said.

The Islamist Ennahda party is tipped to win the biggest bloc of ballots in today's polls in which 7.2 million eligible voters are called to elect a 217-member assembly that will rewrite the constitution.

It will also have the loaded task of appointing an interim president and a caretaker government that will remain in place for the duration of the drafting process, expected to take a year.

"Today's elections may spring political surprises as they are the first pluralist, democratic elections since the revolution" that ousted Ben Ali after a 23-year reign, the interim president said.

"I am confident about the moderation of the Tunisian people and their leaders and I'm optimistic about the future of Tunisia and the smooth running of the elections," he added.