Earlier today, Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party conceded defeat to the main secular opposition in the country’s parliamentary elections.
Although final results of the vote, held Sunday, are not expected until later this week, Ennadha has acknowledged that it is unlikely to retain control of the 217-member assembly.
“We have accepted this result and congratulate the winner,” Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official, told Reuters.
This marked the second time that Tunisians — some 5 million eligible voters — have taken to the polls in the post-Arab Spring era and the first under the country’s new constitution. Despite predictions that these elections could serve as a flashpoint and that Ennahda would again win, the secular Nidaa Tounes party appears to have emerged with a comfortable and uneventful plurality. Officials place provisional turnout at 62 percent.
While fraught with delays and sporadic unrest, Tunisia’s transition has been comparatively smooth and is often cited as a model. President Barack Obama hailed the relatively, free, fair and non-violent elections as a “milestone.” Secretary of State John Kerry elaborated, calling the achievement an example of “why Tunisia remains a beacon of hope, not only to the Tunisian people, but to the region and the world.”
Ennahda came to power in 2011 in the wake of a popular uprising in Tunisia that ousted then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali created political space and quickly sparked revolution across the region. Nidaa Tounes formed in 2012 as a reaction the Islamist rise and perceived mismanagement. According to The New Times, the party is led by former Prime Minister Beji Caid el Sebsi, 87, and made up of former Ben Ali government officials, liberals and secularists.
On Nov. 23, Tunisia is also slated to elect a new President to replace interim leader Moncef Marzouki, who has held the post for nearly three years.