Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda has come out on top in legislative polls, but has fell far short of the majority required to form a government, preliminary results have showed.
The party of Rached Ghannouchi won 52 of 217 seats in Sunday’s election, well short of the 109 needed to govern, the electoral commission said on Wednesday.
Late on Wednesday, the election commission announced Ghannouchi, who has led Ennahda for a long time but never ran for office before, won a seat in Tunis.
The recently formed Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) party of media magnate and presidential candidate Nabil Karoui was placed second with 38 seats.
Karoui was released from jail just a few hours earlier after the Court of Cassation dropped the detention order against him that kept him behind bars.
Up until now, Karoui had to campaign for the presidency by proxy – through his wife and on television.
In the run-up to the parliamentary vote, Ennahda and Qalb Tounes had officially ruled out forming an alliance.
And with a plethora of parties and movements, the stage looks set for long and complex negotiations.
Any political deadlock resulting from the sharply fragmented parliament would complicate Tunisia’s efforts to address chronic economic problems including a large public debt and unemployment of 15%.
The social-democratic Attayar party of human rights activist Mohamed Abbou obtained 22 seats, while populist lawyer Seifeddine Makhlouf’s Karama party secured 21.
Meanwhile, the Free Destourian party of staunchly anti-Islamist Abir Mouss reaped 17 seats, with the female leader also elected Tunis MP.
The results, announced in a televised statement by the electoral commission, are still subject to appeal.
They are roughly in line with an exit poll published on Sunday that also showed Ennahda coming first and Heart of Tunisia second.