As the opposition leader said, “the trend is clear.”
“Ennahda says it models itself on the ruling AKP party in Turkey, another Muslim-majority country which like Tunisia to date has a secular state,” but considering Turkey’s behavior under the AKP, that is not exactly a reassuring statement. For that matter, Tunisia is certain not to have a secular constitution, without reference to Islam. In Turkey, Sharia has been on the outside trying to get back in; in the “new” Tunisia, it will get in on the ground floor.
Tunisia’s main Islamist party claimed on Monday to have captured about 40 per cent of the vote in the country’s first free polls, as the cradle of the Arab Spring basked in praise for its democratic revolution.
Official results were only due on Tuesday but provisional results released by some media outlets appeared to confirm Ennahda’s prediction that it would be the dominant force in Tunisia’s constituent assembly.
The leader of the secular centre-left PDP party, tipped as Ennahda’s main challengers before the vote, conceded defeat.
“The trend is clear. The PDP is badly placed. It is the decision of the Tunisian people. I bow before their choice,” leader Maya Jribi said at her party’s headquarters.
Tunisians turned out en masse Sunday to elect an assembly seen as the custodian of the pro-democracy revolution that brought dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year-old rule to a crushing end nine months ago.
“We are not far from 40 per cent. It could be a bit more or a bit less, but we are sure to take 24 (of the 27) voting districts,” Samir Dilou, a member of Ennahda’s political bureau said, quoting “our sources”.
Another executive member said the Ennahda party’s own count showed it would have between 60 and 65 seats on the 217-member body.
Data posted on the site of independent radio station Mosaique FM also gave Ennahda the lead based on non definitive results from a few dozen polling centres.
The polls, for which over 90 percent of some 4.1 million registered voters turned out, won hearty acclaim from world leaders closely scrutinising developments on the soil of the Arab Spring’s trailblazer.
“This landmark election constitutes a key step in the democratic transition of the country and a significant development in the overall democratic transformation in North Africa and the Middle East,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said.
US President Barack Obama late Sunday hailed the vote as “an important step forward”.
The 27-member European Union vowed support for the new authorities while former colonial power France hailed Tunisian voters’ “democratic fervour”.
Analysts widely predicted Ennahda to win the most votes but fall short of a majority in Sunday’s elections for the new assembly that will rewrite the constitution and appoint a president to form a caretaker government.
The assembly will decide on the country’s system of government and how to guarantee basic liberties, including women’s rights, which many fear Ennahda would seek to diminish despite its assurances to the contrary.
It will also have interim authority to write laws and pass budgets.
Ennahda says it models itself on the ruling AKP party in Turkey, another Muslim-majority country which like Tunisia to date has a secular state.
Its critics have accused Ennahda of preaching modernism in public and radicalism in the mosques, but Tunisia’s progressive left remains divided with party leaders having failed to form a pre-vote alliance.