The Islamist Ennahda party has been officially declared the winner of Tunisia’s election, setting it up to form the first Islamist-led government in the wake of the “Arab Spring” uprisings. But the election, which has so far confounded predictions it would tip the North African country into crisis, turned violent last night when protesters angry their fourth-placed party was eliminated from the poll set fire to the mayor’s office in a provincial town.
Ennahda has tried to reassure secularists nervous about the prospect of Islamist rule in one of the Arab world’s most liberal countries by saying it will respect women’s rights and not try to impose a Muslim moral code on society.
The Islamists won power 10 months after Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vegetable seller in the town of Sidi Bouzid, set fire to himself in an act of protest that led to the fall of Tunisia’s autocratic leader and inspired uprisings in Egypt and Libya.
“We salute Sidi Bouzid and its sons who launched the spark and we hope that God will have made Mohamed Bouazizi a martyr,” said Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi, a soft-spoken Islamic scholar who spent 22 years in exile in Britain.
“We will continue this revolution to realise its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, developing and prosperous in which the rights of God, the Prophet, women, men, the religious and the non-religious are assured because Tunisia is for everyone,” Mr Ghannouchi told a crowd of cheering supporters.