Independent candidates in Tunisia’s first free municipal election gained more votes than major parties Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes, officials said on Tuesday citing preliminary results. Sunday’s election is seen as key to a democratic transition and a chance to establish decentralization and local governance. Tunisia is hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 without triggering major violence. But enthusiasm for democratic change has turned to anger over low living standards amid an economy that is struggling. Some Tunisians have crossed by sea to Europe illegally in search of work while others have turned to militant Islam.
Independents got 32.2 percent of the vote, the Ennahda party 28.6 percent and Nidaa Tounes party 20.8 percent, election commission official Riad Bouhouchi told Reuters, adding that final results are expected on Wednesday.
The independent candidates do not act as a bloc so their apparent victory may not translate into a proportionate degree of control of the country’s 350 municipal councils.
Ennahda presents itself as a democratic Muslim party and on Sunday it claimed victory and said it will continue to work with its secular partners in the national government.