Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Islamists take lead in Tunisia poll

Tunisians turned out in force for their country's first truly free elections on Sunday (AP)

A once-banned Islamist party in Tunisia is on track to win the largest number of seats in the first elections prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings, according to partial results.

The Tunisian electoral commission said the Ennahda party had won 15 out of 39 domestic seats so far in a 217-member assembly meant to write a new constitution.

Together with the results announced on Monday from Tunisians living abroad, Ennahda now has 24 out of 57 seats in total, or just over 42%.

The final results from Sunday's elections could boost other Islamist parties running in elections in North Africa and the Middle East.

Ennahda, which was long suppressed by Tunisia's dictator before he was overthrown in January, was the best organised party in the election and had claimed victory on Monday based on preliminary estimates, estimating around 30% of the seats.

The next most popular party, the Congress for the Republic, is a distant second so far with just 10 seats.

The results of the domestic seats were from 726,000 voters from five of the 27 electoral districts inside Tunisia and included the large cities of Sfax and Sousse.

An estimated 90% of the country's 4.1 million registered voters flocked to Sunday's polls, which have been praised by international observers.

"The voting process was marked by peaceful and enthusiastic participation, generally transparent procedures, and a popular confidence about Tunisia's democratic transition," said a statement by the Carter Centre which observed the contests.

Results, however, were being released in a trickle. Election officials said the painstaking nature of the counting process has caused the delay.

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