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Tunisia’s Ennahda says it is ‘natural’ for Islamists to lead the country

The leader of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party said Wednesday that its commanding lead in historic elections made it the “natural” choice to lead the country’s next government.

“It is natural that the party which obtained the majority heads the government,” Rached Ghannouchi said in a radio interview as provisional tallies showed Ennahda leading the count following Sunday’s poll.

“The government will be put together as soon as possible, within no more than a month,” Ghannouchi said, with final results yet to be published, according to AFP.

An early tally on Tuesday showed Ennahda with 28 of the 55 seats in nine domestic polling districts counted so far, including the key cities of Sousse and Sfax, for a new 217-member assembly that will rewrite the constitution and appoint a caretaker government.

Results released on Monday showed Ennahda taking half of the 18 seats reserved for expatriate assembly representatives in an early vote held abroad last week.

This meant Ennahda had 37 of the 73 seats accounted for so far.

Asked about the identity of the interim president, Ghannouchi said: “It will be a person who had militated against the dictatorship. Nothing has been decided yet. Discussions are continuing.”

Massive numbers of voters turned out Sunday for Tunisia’s first elections since the ouster of dictator Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising in January.

Tunisian voters have entrusted four main political groupings with the task of plotting the country’s democratic future.

Ennahda

Ennahda, the Islamist party banned under the former regime makes no reference in its election program to Sharia (Islamic law), which its leader Ghannouchi propagated in the 1970’s as a way of addressing societal “depravation.”

Instead, the document cites “moderate Islam” as its reference point, and commits the party to respecting religious and minority freedoms.

It guarantees women’s equal right to work and vote and vows to “oppose any compulsion to adopt a specific pattern of dress.”

It also seeks to allow women “to contribute to the development of society, free from the obstructions of decadence.”

Vowing to tackle corruption, the party supports a republican system of government with a one-chamber parliament that will elect a president for a five-year term, renewable once.

Ennahda promises social housing, broader access to health care, bigger social grants and a higher minimum wage.

It undertakes to respect international conventions and seek closer tie with the European Union.

On the economy, Ennahda pledges to create 590,000 jobs and reduce the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent by 2016 from the current 19 percent.

It wants an economic growth rate of eight percent (compared to minus 3 percent in the first quarter of 2011), partly through promoting tourism.

The Congress for the Republic

The Congress for the Republic (CPR), under the leadership of Moncef Marzouki, the previously-banned leftist, nationalist party promises a socialist approach: stronger control over the banks, a redistribution of wealth, the creation of agricultural cooperatives and lower VAT.

It seeks a stronger role for the state in the economy, while guaranteeing an independent judiciary, the protection of civil liberties and gender equality.

It supports the Palestinian cause and promotes a fight against “savage globalization” in favor of “just and equal development.”

Like all other parties on the left, it supports a system of government in which both the president and parliament are directly elected.

Ettakatol


Ettakatol, led by Mustapha Ben Jaafar, who has declared his presidential ambitions, the party seeks a stronger regulatory role for the state. It promises the creation of 100,000 jobs in 2012-13, partly through expanded public works programs.

It has prioritized the eradication of regional differences between cities on the coast and the poorer, inland areas long overlooked for investment by the state.

Modernist Democratic Pole and Democratic Progressive Party

The Modernist Democratic Pole (PDM), a coalition of five leftist parties, and the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP), founded by Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, are likely to form a common bloc of democratic liberals.

Defenders of free expression and secularism, they have promised vigilance against any attempt to diminish civil liberties and minority rights.

The PDP proposes a “modern vision of Islam” and wants an education system that will “purge” society of “obscure and oppressive practices.”

The parties seek to boost economic growth by stimulating foreign investment.