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Moderate Islamist Party Claims Victory in Tunisia

David McAlpine |
October 24, 2011 | 4:18 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

A Tunisian man holds up his finger, showing he voted in Sunday's elections. (Photo via Creative Commons by Max Hirzel)
A Tunisian man holds up his finger, showing he voted in Sunday's elections. (Photo via Creative Commons by Max Hirzel)
Moderate Islamists celebrated across Tunisia after their party, Ennahda, claimed victory in the country's first-ever democratic election.

Though Sunday's results are not official, Ennahda workers across Tunisia had polling results posted, showing that the party had indeed gained control of the country's new democratic leadership.

From Reuters:

“The first confirmed results show that Ennahda has obtained first place,” campaign manager Abdelhamid Jlazzi said outside party headquarters in the center of the Tunisian capital. As he spoke, a crowd of more than 300 in the street shouted “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is great!” Other people started singing the Tunisian national anthem.

Mindful that some people in Tunisia and elsewhere see the resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values, party officials said they were prepared to form an alliance with two secularist parties, Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.

“We will spare no effort to create a stable political alliance … We reassure the investors and international economic partners,” Jlazzi said.

Early results show the Islamist party with 30% of the parliament's seats for the upcoming electoral year, but some predict they could get as many as 40%.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Tunisia has moved more quickly toward democracy than much of the Arab world, including Egypt, where the military is in control, and Syria, where security forces have killed thousands of anti-government protesters.

“A win by Nahda recognizes the Arab-Muslim identity of Tunisia,” said Souhaben Hamouda, a political science major at the University of Juridical and Social Sciences. “But the party is promoting a moderate Islam. I don’t think it will backtrack on women’s rights and other freedoms.

“This election shows that people were sympathetic to Nahda after years of attacks on it by Ben Ali and more recently secular parties,” Hamouda added.

There was worry among liberals, however, over how Nahda would blend Islam with Western-style democracy. The main secularist force in the elections, the Progressive Democratic Party, which was expected to be a counterbalance to Nahda in the constituent assembly, did poorly in the voting.

“The trend is clear. The PDP is badly placed. It is the decision of the Tunisian people. I bow before their choice,” PDP leader Maya Jribi told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “We will be there to defend a modern, prosperous and moderate Tunisia.”

With these results, many expect to see a similar showing when Egypt has their parliamentary elections next month.

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