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Tunisia Secular Party Claims Election Victory

Tunisia's main secular opposition party is claiming victory in the country's historic election for a new 217-member parliament.

The Nidaa Tounes party says a preliminary ballot count shows it has won close to 80 seats, more than any other party.

The ruling Ennahda party conceded defeat on Monday, saying it will accept the result. Former Primer Minister Ali Larayedh urged party followers to look toward the next elections.

"We will keep working and we are still one of the biggest parties, and we are still the best guarantee for democracy and freedom. We are a deep-rooted political party. We are still going forward," said Larayedh. "Don't be afraid!''

The moderate Islamist Ennahda party is expected to take about 70 seats. Official election results have yet to be released.

Some 90 parties competed in Sunday's election, the latest democratic step since Tunisians overthrew autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the country's 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

About 60 percent of Tunisia's 5.2 million registered voters participated in the parliamentary vote. Presidential elections are set for late November.

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

Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States is committed to working with the next democratically elected government of Tunisia that results from this vote.

Tunisia has been relatively peaceful since becoming the first country to topple its government in a wave of popular uprisings that spread across the region.

However, there has been some discontent over the slow pace of change and the continued economic problems following the revolution that was partly carried out over the lack of jobs.

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 has remained on track, unlike other countries that experienced Arab Spring uprisings.