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      Tunisia: Islamist Party Big Electoral Winner

      The Islamist Ennahda Party won 41% of the seats in Tunisia's first electoral contest since the country initiated the Arab Spring uprising.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 11/15/2011, 1:13 AM

      Tunisia's final election results confirmed the victory of a once-banned Islamist party, the country's election commission said Monday. 

      According to the Associated Press, the final results for the Oct. 23 contests give the once-banned Ennahda Party 89 out of 217 seats (41%) - more than triple the seats won by any other party.

      International observers described Tunisia's elections free and fair. The newly elected assembly will write the country's new constitution and appoint an interim government ahead of new elections to be held late next year.

      Tunisia is known in the Arab world for its comparatively secular outlook and progressive legislation on women's rights, but Ennahda triumphed through superior organization and a reputation for confronting the previous regime.

      The elections were held nine months after Tunisians overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled with an iron fist for 23 years.

      Out of a potential electorate of 7.5 million voters, 54 percent participated in the election - an overwhelming majority of those who had registered. 

      The Tunisian uprising was the first anti-regime movement in the so-called Arab Spring that has gripped the Middle East and North Africa. Ennahda's victory is expected to inspire Islamist parties competing in elections elsewhere - including Egypt and Morocco. 

      Ennahda, however, is said to be much less conservative that other Islamist parties around the region and has pledged to respect the country's progressive legislation supporting women's rights.

      The liberal Congress for the Republic, led by veteran human rights activist Moncef Marzouki came in second with 29 seats. The party is expected to join Ennahda in a ruling coalition.

      In third place with 26 seats was the Popular Petition, led by wealthy media mogul Hachemi Hamdi, based in London and owner of the Mustaqila satellite station.

      In fourth place came the left of center Ettakatol or Forum party with 20 seats.

      The remaining seats went to a series of smaller parties and independent candidates.