Early election results indicate that the moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, has claimed victory in Tunisia's first elections since the country's popular revolution ousted longtime leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali last January. Tonight, al-Alam features a profile on the once-banned political party that has so far claimed 30 percent of votes in Tunisia's historic election, in which some 90 percent of eligible voters turned out. While many worried about the potential for violence and chaos, the elections are being hailed a success. One voter said, "We used to be so ashamed of our country…But today we're proud to be Tunisian." Another observer tweeted, "singing and fireworks outside [Ennahda] HQ after first results announced."
According to al-Arabiya, Ennahda's leader Rachid al-Ghannouchi, who was in exile for 22 years during Ben Ali's rule, wants a moderate system of Islamist governance modeled after Turkey's Justice and Development party. The party's campaign manager added that Tunisia's priorities in this new phase "are stability, conditions for a dignified life and the building of democratic institutions in Tunisia. We are open to anyone who shares these objectives. We are open to all forces without exception." While secularists see al-Ghannouchi as a dangerous radical, Islamists believe he is far too liberal. The Ennahda leadership, however, vows to uphold its pre-election promises of forming a broad coalition government and is currently in discussions with secular parties.
With the first democratic elections, Tunisia is once again paving the way in the region as the next phase of the "Arab Spring" takes shape. Egypt is scheduled to hold elections next month and many eagerly await to see whether other countries in the region will follow Tunisia's lead.
(Photo: Supporters of the Islamist Ennahda movement celebrate outside Ennahda's headquarters in Tunis. Zohra Bensemra / Reuters)