Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Tunisia counts votes, poll suggests split parliament


Tunisia counted votes from Sunday’s parliamentary elections, as an exit poll suggested that the religious Ennahda Party would receive the most ballots, while falling far short of the majority needed to form a government.

Polling by local firm Sigma Conseil showed Ennahda leading with 17.5 percent of votes, with Heart of Tunisia — the party of jailed TV mogul Nabil Karoui — in second with 15.6 percent.

While the split was expected, it is likely to spell a prolonged period of horse-trading between politicians in the North African country that has already endured years of bickering and compromises.

Preliminary results in the vote for Tunisia’s 217-member assembly are due by Thursday.

Under Sigma’s figures, Ennahda would get 40 seats and Heart of Tunisia 33.

Nidaa Tounes, formerly the main centrist option, could win just one seat, down from 86 in 2014, the poll found.

Tunisia, which kicked off the Arab Spring in 2011 with mass protests that ousted then-Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, is the only country to have emerged from the maelstrom with a viable democracy.

However, many of the 11.5 million citizens accuse the government of failing to improve their lives, as political infighting and sporadic militant attacks have sapped the economy.

That discontent fueled a rejection of the political establishment in the Sept. 15 presidential vote, where low-profile law professor Kais Saied and Karoui, a self-proclaimed champion of the poor who is being held on corruption charges he denies, took the lead.

The two outsiders are to compete in a runoff on Sunday.

Ennahda, which has held various posts in Tunisia’s government before, said late on Sunday it had secured “an indisputable win” and would pursue a “policy of partnership with other parties on the basis of a fight against poverty and combating corruption.”

The once-outlawed party says it has abandoned political Islam, although secularist critics continued to accuse it of having plans to subvert Tunisia’s modern history of secularism.

The Democratic Current, which Sigma’s poll showed could win 5.1 percent of the vote, quickly ruled out a coalition with Ennahda.

Ennahda is backing Saied for the presidency after its candidate’s bid failed, while Ennahda leader Rashid Ghannouchi ran for parliament in Tunisia’s largest constituency.

Sigma’s exit poll for the presidential vote correctly predicted the main result.

About 41 percent of the country’s more than 7 million registered voters cast a ballot, electoral authorities said.

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