May 24, 2013
Tunisian Islamists confirmed election winners
Tunisian election officials on Thursday confirmed the Islamist Ennahda party as winner of the North African country's election, setting it up to form the first Islamist-led government in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Ennahda has tried to reassure secularists and investors, nervous about the prospect of Islamist rule in one of the Arab world's most liberal countries, by saying it would not stop tourists wearing bikinis on beaches or impose Islamic banking.
It has put forward one of its officials for the prime minister's job, after it scored a resounding victory in the country's first ever free election after a Jan. 14 revolution ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Announcing the results, election commission members said Ennahda had won 90 seats in the 217-seat assembly which will draft a new constitution, and form an interim government.
Its nearest rival, the secularist Congress for the Republic, won 30 votes, commission members told a packed hall in the capital, ending a four-day wait since Sunday's poll for the painstaking count to be completed.
"The elections were as our people and youth wanted them to be -- democratic, transparent, clean and pluralistic, in a break with the past," said deputy commission head Souad Triki.
"At this historic moment, we can only salute the spirit of our innocent martyrs and the endurance of the youth of Jan. 14," she said.
Ennahda, banned under Ben Ali, fell short of an absolute majority in the new assembly but is expected to form a coalition with two of the secularist runners-up. The Islamists will get the biggest say on important posts.
The results were in line with Ennahda's own predictions. Tunisia's complex election system means that it is impossible for any one party to win a majority of assembly seats.
Ennahda lies at the moderate and liberal end of the spectrum of Islamist parties in the Middle East. Its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, models his approach on the moderate stance of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.