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Main secular party takes most seats in new Tunisia parliament

Beji Caid Essebsi (right), head of the Nidaa Tounes party
Beji Caid Essebsi (right), head of the Nidaa Tounes party AFP / Fethi Belaid

Tunisia’s main secular party Nidaa Tounes won 85 seats in the new 217-member parliament in Sunday’s election, while the Islamist party Ennahda secured 69 seats, according to results released by electoral authorities on Thursday.

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Tunisians voted in a parliamentary ballot that was one of the last steps in the North African country’s transition to democracy after the 2011 uprising against Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Ennahda, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the “Arab Spring” revolts, conceded defeat on Monday in the election that was only the second free vote since Ben Ali’s autocratic rule ended.

One of the most secular Arab countries, Tunisia has been hailed as an example of political compromise after overcoming a crisis between secular and Islamist movements and approving a new constitution this year that allowed the elections.

With no outright majority, Nidaa Tounes will seek to form a coalition with partners in negotiations that will likely last weeks before a new government is set up. Ennahda has called for a national unity government including its Islamist movement.

Electoral authorities said the secular UNL party won 16 seats, the left-leaning Popular Front movement secured 15 and the liberal Afek Tounes party won 8.

Ennahda, which espouses a pragmatic form of political Islam, won Tunisia’s first free election in 2011 after Ben Ali fled protests against corruption and repression, and went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The party formed a coalition government with two secular partners but had to step aside in a crisis that erupted over the murder of two opposition leaders by Islamist militants.

During campaigning, Ennahda cast itself as a party that learned from the past, but Nidaa Tounes appeared to have capitalised on criticism that the Islamist movement had mismanaged the economy and had failed to tackle hardline militants.

(REUTERS)

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