Accessibility links

After Elections, Tunisia’s Nidaa Tounes Seeks Alliances to Govern

  • Lisa Bryant

Beji Caid Essebsi (C), Nidaa Tounes party leader, gestures outside Nidaa Tounes headquarters in Tunis, October 28, 2014.

Beji Caid Essebsi (C), Nidaa Tounes party leader, gestures outside Nidaa Tounes headquarters in Tunis, October 28, 2014.

Official election results confirm that a new secular alliance has emerged the victor in Tunisia's legislative elections, winning 85 of the 217 seats in parliament and getting the mandate to form the country's next government. The party has emerged as a rare success story after the so-called Arab Spring uprisings.

Hours after Sunday's legislative elections, projections and party counts had already indicated that Nidaa Tounes captured the most votes, but not a commanding majority. Its main rival - the moderate Islamist Ennahda party - even acknowledged defeat. Now, with the official confirmation of its win, Nidaa Tounes - whose name means "Call for Tunisia" - must start forming a new government.

In an interview with France 24 news channel earlier this week, the party's leader, Beji Caid Essebsi, said it was premature to talk about a coalition government - including any possible alliance with Ennahda. He said results from November's presidential election will shape the way forward.

The international community has praised the vote - Tunisia's second since its 2011 revolution, and the first under its new constitution. President Barack Obama called it a "milestone" and an inspiration.

But the campaign also underscored the deep problems facing the North African country, as it struggles with unemployment, a grim economy, rising crime and radical Islam. Thousands of candidates and scores of parties ran for a seat in parliament, but at the end, only the two main parties emerged big winners.

Analyst Vincent Geisser of the French Institute for the Near East told French radio that the election also reflected disillusionment, deception and fear on the part of Tunisian voters about the future. The overall regional Arab context was one marked by uncertainty, violence, terrorism and - in the case of Egypt - a return to dictatorship.

As a result, Geisser said, Tunisians voted for order and security - which they saw in these two main parties - rather than for a more profound political transformation. But, he said, this is a normal reaction during a post-revolution period.

Ennahda emerged the winner in the last legislative vote in 2011. But today, many Tunisians blame it for failing to turn the economy around and for a perceived laxness against Islamist extremism.

Nidaa Tounes was largely formed in opposition to Ennahda. It contains members of the old regime, including the 87-year-old Essebsi who - despite his age - suggests he may remain at its helm for the immediate future.