Islamist Party Claims Victory in Tunisia

A moderate Islamist party is claiming victory in Tunisia's first ever democratic election. Official results not yet known.

Elad Benari,

Tunisia unrest in the capital (January 2011 a
Tunisia unrest in the capital (January 2011 a
Israel news photo: courtesy VOA Photo/L. Brya

A moderate Islamist party in Tunisia has claimed victory in Tunisia’s first democratic election, Reuters reported on Monday.

While official results have not been announced, the Ennahda party said its workers had tallied the results posted at polling stations after Sunday’s vote, thus confirming its victory.

“The first confirmed results show that Ennahda has obtained first place,” campaign manager Abdelhamid Jlazzi said outside his party’s headquarters in the center of the Tunisian capital.

Jlazzi added that his party was prepared to form an alliance with two secularist parties, a move likely meant to quell fears of a resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values.

“We will spare no effort to create a stable political alliance,” he said. “We reassure the investors and international economic partners.”

The vote on Sunday was the first election in Tunisia since former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia last January, following a wave of protests which hit the country.

The protests, started by the self-immolation of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, triggered further protest waves not just in Tunisia but across the Middle East.

Sunday’s vote, which saw an impressive 90 percent turnout, was for an assembly which will sit for one year to draft a new constitution for Tunisia. It will also appoint a new interim president and government to run the country until new elections that will be held late next year or early in 2013.

The voting system has built-in checks and balances which make it nearly impossible for any one party to have a majority, Reuters reported, a fact which compels Ennahda to seek alliances with secularist parties, which will dilute its influence.

Ennahda is led by Rachid Ghannouchi, who was forced into exile in Britain for 22 years because of harassment by Ben Ali’s police. Reuters noted that he has claimed that his party will not enforce any code of morality on Tunisian society, rather going with the moderate approach of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.