An independent and a jailed candidate are set to face a run-off after a hotly-contested Tunisian presidential election that saw 26 contenders vying for the job, according to preliminary results from the electoral commission.
Independent and law professor Kais Saied and media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was arrested last month on charges of money laundering and tax evasion, are expected to go head-to-head next month.
Preliminary results on Monday showed 61-year-old Saied got 19 per cent of votes and Karoui ranked second with 14.9 per cent after 27 per cent of votes had been counted.
The candidate of moderate Islamist party Ennahdha, Abdelfattah Mourou, came third with 13.1 per cent, followed by Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.
The electoral commission announced that the turnout stood at 45 per cent.
The election has been seen as crucial to strengthening a nascent democracy in the North African country, which has been roiled by economic woes and militancy.
Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolts, is widely seen as the sole democratic success story of the 2010-11 uprisings.
But the country has been under pressure from international lenders, mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to take drastic measures to revamp its economy.
The IMF, which in 2016 approved a four-year loan of about $US2.8 billion for Tunisia, said this year that Tunisia's economy had improved since 2017.
However, Tunisia still needs to decrease its fiscal and external deficits and reduce inflation.
Australian Associated Press