Claiming election fraud, nearly 100 Tunisians protested Tuesday outside the headquarters of the independent electoral body, saying the country's first-ever elections have been marred.
No, no to fraud, the group chanted, reportedly pointing the finger at the Islamist Ennahda party, which, official results showed Sunday, that of the millions of Tunisians who turned out to cast their vote, many favored Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that won 43 of the 101 seats so far assigned to the 217-seat assembly, The Wall Street Journal reported. Partial results released supported Ennahda party claims that it won at least 40 percent of the seats.
The protestors were calling for a probe into the finances of some parties, including Ennahda, which is widely suspected of being supported by Gulf countries despite a ban on foreign funding for parties contesting the election, Middle East Online reported.
The blood of our martyrs is worth more than your sheep, one protestor reportedly shouted, referencing claims that Ennahda had distributed sheep to poor people for the celebration of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, in the run-up to the elections.
On Saturday, Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia's main Islamist party, warned that any fraud in the first free elections could send the nation into chaos, The Associated Press reported.
We have no tradition or experience of free and fair elections, but we've had 50 years of electoral fraud and there are no guarantees we have gotten rid of this custom, Ghannouchi said. We caution against any fraud which would be a disaster for the country as a whole and lead to chaos. The people would not accept or allow that to happen and we are part of the people.
Despite the protest and calls for a probe, the European Union observer mission expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the polls, saying that any irregularities were minor.
Ennahda's apparent win highlights a radical shift in the region, for most elections there have tended to pit hardened Islamist groups against secular parties who are just as strident in opposing their rivals' politics. But Ennahda's officials have promised a broad-based coalition with their secular counterparts.
We will not exclude any party, independent personality or social movement, said Abdel Hamid Jelassi, Ennahda's campaign manager.
We were once the victims of a politics of exclusion and our goal is to create a government of national unity.
Ali Larayd, a member of Ennahda's executive committee, said the Islamists were ready to form an alliance with the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, both secularist groups that are respected by Tunisian intelligentsia. The Congress for the Republic has won 13 seats so far.
The Islamist party has also made known its desire to build stronger ties with Washington and European capitals, the Wall Street Journal wrote.
The United States has responded by increasing aid to Tunisia since the start of the revolution. For the first time since 1996, the U.S. would re-establish a Peace Corps branch in the country, according to President Barack Obama.
In a statement Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded Sunday's vote.
We believe it's committed to the democratic process, said a senior Western diplomat.