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Islamic Party Claims Victory in Tunisia Election

Lisa Bryant | Tunis October 25, 2011

Moderate Islamists claimed victory on Monday in Tunisia's first democratic election, sending a message to other states in the region that long-sidelined Islamists are challenging for power after the "Arab Spring," October 24, 2011.

Tunisia turns to creating a new constitution and interim government, as election results on Tuesday confirmed a first-place finish by the moderate Islamic party Ennahdha.

Two days after casting their ballots in a peaceful, ebullient vote, Tunisians are back to work Tuesday. Or at least some of them. Outdoor cafes are packed with women and men. Streets are snarled with honking traffic.

University student Hamdi Bin Jebrellah, sporting jeans and sunglasses, is pleased - but not surprised - at the election results.

Bin Jebrellah voted for the Islamist Ennahdha party, which captured the most votes. He says he is glad Islam is now part of Tunisia's politics. He sees Turkey as a good model for his country.

One middle aged woman, who only gave her first name, Emla, voted for a leftist party. But she is still satisfied with the outcome.

Emla says what is essential is the elections were democratic and transparent, and that voter turnout was high. She says democracy is about accepting the results.

International observers have hailed Tunisia's elections for a new Constituent Assembly. Just as Tunisia inspired the Arab Spring uprisings, some believe its first democratic vote may be another model.

But Fedia Trabelsi, wearing a maroon hijab and black gloves, is among those who did not go to the polls.

Trabelsi says even if she is veiled, she is against Ennahdha. She believes in a separation of religion and politics.

The new assembly is tasked to write Tunisia's next constitution. Eric Goldstein, a deputy director for Human Rights Watch, says that alone will be a major challenge.

"Writing a constitution is a huge job because it's going to be the roadmap for laws that are going to be revised and the way the people relate to their government. How much presidential system, how much parliamentary," said Goldstein.

The assembly must also appoint an interim government to run daily affairs. And it must deal with the many problems that fueled Tunisia's January revolution - including the faltering economy and high unemployment.

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