Moderate Islamist Party Sweeps to Victory in Free Tunisian Election

Banned After 1989 Vote, Party Returns to Claim Power

Tunisia’s center-left Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has conceded defeat this evening in the weekend’s elections, the first free elections after the ouster of long-time dictator Zine el Abidine bin Ali, with preliminary counting showing the PDP as a solid second place finisher.

But the runaway winners of the vote are the Hezb Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party banned after the hotly disputed 1989 vote and legalized early this year in the wake of bin Ali’s ouster.

The final count isn’t in, and so far it isn’t clear if the Ennahda has enough seats to form a government on its own or if it will require a coalition government. Still, with a new constitution to be written the victory gives them enormous power over the future of Tunisia.

Interestingly, the party’s founder and leader Rashid al-Ghannouchi did not expect anything resembling this sort of victory when he returned from exile, suggesting the party would not seek the presidency and would instead focus on regaining grassroots support lost since their banning. It seems that took a lot less time than they figured.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.