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Polls Close in Tunisian Parliamentary Elections

Election officials count ballots following Tunisia's parliamentary poll, in Tunis Oct. 26, 2014.

Polls have closed in Tunisia's first full term parliamentary elections since 2011 when a popular uprising ousted veteran autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, sparking the Arab Spring.

Candidates from some 90 political parties competed Sunday for 217 seats in parliament. The members of new legislature will then elect a new prime minister.

The moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which dominated elections in 2011, is one of two parties expected to have a strong showing in the vote.

Rachid Ghannouchi, who heads Ennahda, described the elections as "historic" and "a day where the dreams of generations of martyrs, prisoners and displaced people come true."

“It is our duty as Tunisians to keep this candle burning, to light the way forward for the Arab world. We need to keep it burning, to prove that dreams can come true and that the Arab people are worthy of democracy; that Islam and democracy are not contradictory, but go hand in hand, and that the Tunisian people are civilized, and worthy of democracy themselves. It is a big responsibility for the next generation,” said Ghannouchi.

Another party expected to get wide support is Nidaa Tounes, led by 87-year-old politician Beji Caid Essebsi. The party, which includes some former members of the ousted Ben Ali regime, bills itself the only party able to stand up against the Islamists.

President Barack Obama hailed the election an important milestone in the country's historic political transition. He said Tunisians continue to "inspire people across their region and around the world.''

The revolt that ousted Ben Ali ushered in a coalition government and interim president that has won praise from the international community.

However, there has been some discontent over the slow pace of change and the continued economic problems following the revolution that was partly triggered by high unemployment.

The country has experienced some turmoil in the last three and a half years, including political assassinations, labor unrest, high inflation and attacks from Islamist extremists.

Still, Tunisia's democratic transition is seen as having remained on track, compared to developments in other Arab Spring countries.

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