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Islamist Party Wins Tunisian Elections

Supporters of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party celebrate in Tunis after results came out Tuesday showing the party had taken the lead. Photo by Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images.
This post was updated at 10:55 a.m. ET

Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party Ennahda won the nation’s first free elections, taking 41.47 percent of the vote and 90 of 217 seats in an assembly that will write a new constitution, the electoral commission announced Thursday.

Ennahda had been banned until the Arab Spring moved Tunisia toward democracy after more than 50 years under one-party systems.

Some clashes, however, were reported in the town of Sidi Bouzid, which was central to the Arab Spring movement. Tunisian troops fired in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters who were angry after candidate lists of a party contesting the elections were disqualified because of alleged financial irregularities.

The leader of the Popular Petition party, Hachemi Hamdi, announced on national television that he was withdrawing the 19 seats his party won after the electoral commission invalidated six of its lists, the AP reported.

Ennahda’s leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, called on Tunisians to reject violence Thursday, saying it had been provoked by forces linked to ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Reuters reported.

In his first news conference since the election, Ghannouchi said there would be a role for women in politics and in the new government. No attempt would be made to force women to wear the headscarf, including in government, he added, the BBC reported.

Since its victory, Ennahda has sought to reassure secularists and investors, nervous about the prospect of Islamists holding power in one of the Arab world’s most liberal countries, by saying it would not ban alcohol, stop tourists wearing bikinis on the beaches or impose Islamic banking.

But despite the reassurances, Ennahda’s victory is causing concern in some parts of Tunisia, who fear the party could later change its policies.

Related Resource: View a slide show and on-the-ground report on Tunisia’s historic elections.

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