Ennahda – Asset or Threat?: The Islamist Election Victory in Tunisia

Analysis, posted 11.15.2011, from Tunisia, in:
Ennahda – Asset or Threat?: The Islamist Election Victory in Tunisia (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa)

Nine months after the resignation of the president on 14 January 2011, the first truly free elections were held in Tunisia since independence in 1956.

The constituent assembly elections of 23 October therefore marked an important stage in the democratisation process. The balance of power in the constituent assembly, which will be reflected in the new government, will be decisive when the nation's future constitution is hammered out.

Victory for the Islamists

The results were announced by Tunisia's electoral commission on 27 October. According to these, of the 7.5 million people entitled to vote, 3.7 million or 46.5 percent cast a ballot. Of the 217 seats on the constituent assembly, the Islamist party "Ennahda" won 90 seats (41.47 percent), making it the outright winner.

The second-largest party with 30 seats (13.82 percent) was the "Congress for the Republic" (CPR) led by Moncef Marzouki, aligned to the centre-left on the Tunisian political party spectrum and presenting Arab-nationalist ideas.

The third largest party with 21 seats (9.86 percent) was the social-democratic party "Ettakatol" (Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties) led by Mustapha Ben Jafaar.

One surprise result was the 19 seats (8.79 percent) for the "Al-Arhidha" party (Popular Petition) led by the businessman and exiled opposition activist Hachemi Hamdi, who then boycotted those seats in the constituent assembly as a protest after the electoral commission disqualified several lists due to financial irregularities.

The secular-liberal "Progressive Democratic Party" (PDP), whose leaders Maya Jribi and Néjib Chebbi conducted a large-scale election campaign and ruled out any coalition with Islamists in advance of the poll, performed unexpectedly badly and could only capture 17 seats (7.83 percent). The remaining seats were shared between all other parties and independent candidates.

In any event, 49 seats (24 percent) on the constituent assembly went to women, 42 of those to female representatives of "Ennahda".

European Union observers monitoring the electoral process since 8 September 2011 gave the poll a clean bill of health despite isolated irregularities, and gave positive feedback on the neutrality of audiovisual media.

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By Sigrid Faath; Translated by Nina Coon

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