Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party claimed victory late on Sunday in the country’s first free municipal elections, a key step in a democratic transition marred by economic disappointment. After polling stations closed at 6 p.m., top Ennahda official Lotfi Zitoun told Reuters the party was more than 5 percent ahead of its secularist rival, Nidaa Tounes, citing vote counts observed by the party. Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes are also coalition partners in the national government. They were expected to dominate the long-delayed polls, which will see officials elected in 350 municipalities for the first time since a 2011 uprising ended decades of authoritarian rule.
“This result is a reward for the new tolerant and democratic Ennahda … Ennahda which searched for consensus,” Zitoun said.
Ennahda will “continue to keep the consensus with our partners”, spokesman Imed Khemiri said in a statement at party headquarters in Tunis, where supporters gathered outside and sang revolutionary songs from 2011.
“It’s important that the two main parties won and it’s important for the political balance in the country.”