Tunisia parliamentary vote: Exit poll shows Ennahda in the lead


Tunis/Sousse, Tunisia – The conservative Ennahdha party has come first in Tunisia‘s parliamentary election, according to an exit poll broadcast by state TV.

The poll by Sigma Conseil showed Rached Ghannouchi’s party would secure 17.5 percent of Sunday’s vote, followed closely by jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui’s Qalb Tunes, at 15.6 percent.

Hours earlier, Karoui, one of the two relative outsiders to advance to Tunisia’s presidential runoff vote that will be held next week – claimed in a statement that his party had come first.

“We are the most visionary, we want to break the old establishment,” Samy Achour, a senior member of Qalb Tounes’ political bureau, told Al Jazeera.

But if exit polls are anything to go by, not everyone appears ready to do so.

Low turnout

In an election day that came and went without much enthusiasm, voter turnout is expected to have been low – recorded at 23.49 percent at 2pm, six hours after the opening of the polls.

Sharan Grewal, a visit fellow at Brookings focused on North Africa, predicted a lower turnout compared with the first round of Tunisia’s presidential election last month, which stood at 49 percent. The main reason, he said, was that some of the supporters of Kais Saied, Karoui’s opponent in the upcoming presidential runoff, “stayed home” as the academic has no party and did not endorse any party or list”.

“Several parties including Ennahdha … tried to court his voters, but it remains to be seen how they did,” Grewal added.

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In Sousse, on the Gulf of Hammamet, one voter said he was the only person in a crowded coffee shop sporting a blue index finger – the telltale sign of those who cast their vote.

Elsewhere, Zohra Eltaief, a 65-year-old retired nurse, said she voted for list number two, of Abir Moussi’s party. Moussi is often refered to as being nostalgic of the era of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for 24 years before being toppled in a 2011 civilian uprising that forced him to flee.

“Moussi is a lawyer and has been always involved in politics, she is the extension of Bourguiba and Ben Ali who were devoted to the country,” Eltajef said. “Today, she is the only one who is able to stop the obscurantism of Ennahda and its allies.”

Months of coalition talks?

According to the exit poll, the conservative Karama party, whose leader scored 4.4 percent in September’s presidential election, was third, followed by Tahya Younes.

“As in 2011 and 2014, the winning party will need to form a coalition to gain a majority,” Grewal said. “The big question here is whether that coalition will include both the top two parties, Ennahdha and Qalb Tounes. During the campaign period, both ruled out a coalition between them.”

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This, says Grewal, could mean weeks or even months of negotiations. “No party has over 20 percent, and it will take at least four parties to even form a government,” he added.

More than 1,500 lists and 15,000 candidates were running for 217 seats, with registered political parties and independents vying for control of the single chamber.

While Tunisia is often referred to as the only success story to come out of the Arab Spring, the elections were held against a backdrop of spiralling food prices, inflation and more than 15 percent unemployment.

Preliminary results will be announced on October 10 and official results on November 17. The assembly will then be given two months to choose a prime minister and form a new government.

Read the full article at: aljazeera.com