Islamists Concede Defeat in Tunisia Elections

Tunisia's Ennahda party, which won the 2011 elections, concedes defeat to its main secular rival.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Counting ballots in Tunisia elections
Counting ballots in Tunisia elections

Tunisia's Ennahda party, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 "Arab Spring" revolts, conceded defeat on Monday in elections that are set to make its main secular rival the strongest force in parliament, Reuters reports.

Official results from Sunday's elections - the second parliamentary vote since Tunisians set off uprisings across much of the Arab World by overthrowing autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali - were still to be announced.

However, a senior official at Ennahda, which ruled in a coalition until it was forced to make way for a caretaker government during a political crisis at the start of this year, acknowledged defeat by the secular Nidaa Tounes party.

"We have accepted this result, and congratulate the winner Nidaa Tounes," the official, Lotfi Zitoun, told Reuters, but repeated the party's call for a new coalition including Ennahda.

"We are calling once again for the formation of a unity government in the interest of the country,” said Zitoun.

Earlier, a party source said preliminary tallies showed the secular party had won 80 seats in the 217-member assembly, ahead of 67 secured by Ennahda.

"According to the preliminary results, we are in the lead and in a comfortable position," one Nidaa Tounes official said, without confirming figures given by the first source.

Ennahda won the first free election after the overthrow of Ben Ali in 2011, but was accused by the opposition of seeking to entrench itself in power, disregarding the interests of a large secular urban population and being lenient toward radical Islamists.

Tunisia was roiled by social unrest and political crises ever since the election, but things really got out of hand last summer after two secular opposition leaders were assassinated by Islamists.

During campaigning Ennahda cast itself as a party that learned from its mistakes, but Nidaa Tounes appeared to have capitalized on criticism that it had mismanaged the economy and had been lax in tackling hardline Islamists.