Moderate Islamists win Tunisian election

Tunisia's moderate Islamist party Ennahda, banned for decades, emerged the official victor tonight, following the nation's first free elections.

Tunisia's moderate Islamist party Ennahda, banned for decades, emerged the official victor tonight, following the nation's first free elections.

The party took 90 of 217 seats in an assembly that will write a new constitution.

Second with 30 seats in Sunday's landmark vote was the Congress for the Republic party, founded in 2001 by noted human rights activists Moncef Marzouki, a doctor who had lived in exile in Paris.

The third-placed party was the centre-left Ettakatol, or the Democratic Forum for Labour and Freedoms, led by Mustapha Ben Jaafar, also a doctor. It won 21 seats in the constituent assembly.

Ennahda's leading role in fashioning a new Tunisia was evident shortly after the vote. But electoral authorities had said they were slow in announcing full results because they were taking care with counting and verifying.

The assembly will form a government to replace interim authorities who have been in charge of the North African nation since protests forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee in January and take refuge in Saudi Arabia.

The Tunisian protests inspired similar movements in other Arab countries, including successful revolutions in Egypt and Libya, now known as the Arab Spring.

Electoral authorities invalidated six lists of the party placing fourth in the voting with 19 assembly seats, Aridha-Chabia, or Popular Petition, saying there were abuses, mainly concerning financing.

International observers have praised Tunisia for an exemplary election, but the path ahead remains fraught with difficulties.

Ennahda officials have promised a broad-based coalition, and vowed to wary Tunisians that democratic principles as well as sex equality will be respected in line with Muslim Tunisia's strong secular tradition.

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