BIZERTE, Tunisia - Tunisia's presidential election is the "last stand" for the regime toppled in 2011, incumbent Moncef Marzouki said Wednesday, in a dig at his main rival and frontrunner Beji Caid Essebsi.
Essebsi, 87, leads the field ahead of Sunday's vote, after his anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party won a parliamentary election on October 26, beating the previously dominant moderate Islamist movement Ennahda.
"For the old regime, this is its last stand," Marzouki told AFP on the sidelines of campaigning in the northern city of Bizerte.
"Because when there is a revolution, there's always a counter-revolution... The counter-revolution is trying to make its last stand, and it will lose," Hundreds of people gathered in the old port of Bizerte to rally around Marzouki, who has sought to portray himself as the bulwark against the return of the regime of deposed autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
"On Sunday we need you to teach a lesson to those who believe that Tunisia is for sale," Marzouki told his supporters.
"We have to go to the (election) as people who are citizens, not subjects, people who will not accept the return of dictatorship." "Be those who realise their history, and are not its victims.
"The Arab Spring which began in Tunisia will not die in Tunisia," he said.
Tunisians hope both elections will provide much-sought stability nearly four years after the revolution that drove Ben Ali from power in 2011.
While Nidaa Tounes does incorporate figures aligned with the old regime, it also includes business people, intellectuals, trade unionists and even leftwing activists.
And its defenders point out that while it won the most seats in parliament it did not gain enough to rule on its own. It needs to form a coalition and faces an Islamist opposition that made a strong showing.
If no candidate secures an absolute majority Sunday, a run-off will take place in late December.
It will be the first time Tunisians have voted freely for their head of state.