Left-wing activist takes lead in vote for Ireland presidency

Human rights activist and poet Michael D. Higgins headed for victory Friday in Ireland’s presidential election as the Irish picked a left-wing idealist to be the new face of a debt-struck nation.

Higgins’ main challenger, business guru and reality TV celebrity Sean Gallagher, conceded defeat in a telephone call to Higgins. Gallagher said he expected Higgins would be, as his own campaign slogan promised, “a president to be proud of.”

Higgins, 70, was mobbed by well-wishers and journalists as he arrived at the Dublin Castle count center. Electoral officials announced he had received 39.6 percent of all first-preference votes to take an unassailable lead atop the seven candidates.

“I’m very glad that it was so decisive. It will enable me to be a president for all of the people,” Higgins said of his commanding share of votes from Thursday’s election.

Final results are expected today because of Ireland’s complex voting system, which permits voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

TUNIS, Tunisia

Violence flares in one city during first free elections

The leader of the moderate Islamist party that won Tunisia’s first free elections called for calm Friday after protests erupted in the town where the country’s revolution began.

Authorities called a curfew in the town of Sidi Bouzid, where supporters of a local candidate rioted after he was docked seats for campaigning violations.

It was in Sidi Bouzid where a vegetable seller set himself ablaze in a protest that sparked nationwide protests and eventually led to uprisings across the Arab world.

“We call for calm among the inhabitants of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the revolution, which must be at the forefront of preserving the public good,” said Rachid Ghannouchi, founder of the Ennahda, or Renaissance, party which took 90 of the assembly’s 217 seats.

The assembly will be tasked with appointing a transitional government and writing the new constitution.

Police lobbed tear gas to disperse a crowd of up to 3,000 people Thursday night, and the army fired warning shots, according to local resident Mourad Barhoumi. Residents burned tires, pillaged some stores and torched a national guard post and a state training center, he said.


U.S. suspect in woman’s death to remain in custody

A U.S. businessman who has been jailed in Aruba for nearly three months as a suspect in the death of his traveling companion must remain in custody for at least 30 more days to give investigators more time to gather and evaluate evidence, a judge on the island ruled Friday.

Aruban prosecutors announced the ruling after a closed hearing on the Dutch Caribbean island. Gary Giordano, 50, of Gaithersburg, Md., who owns an employment agency, has been in jail since Aug. 5, three days after he told police that his companion, Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Md., was swept out to sea while snorkeling.

Authorities say they believe that Gardner is dead and that Giordano was involved. Her body has not been found, and any evidence against Giordano has not been disclosed.

— From news service reports