Ennahda Movement won the municipal elections with 27.5 percent votes, said the state-run broadcaster. Nidaa Tounes, the country's second largest party, ranked second with 22.5 percent votes, according to unofficial results.

Supporters of the Ennahda party celebrate outside the party's headquarters after claiming victory in a local poll in Tunis, Tunisia, on May 6, 2018.
Supporters of the Ennahda party celebrate outside the party's headquarters after claiming victory in a local poll in Tunis, Tunisia, on May 6, 2018. (Reuters)

Tunisia's Ennahda Movement won the local elections after getting 27.5 percent votes, according to state-run broadcaster on Sunday.

According to the unofficial results, Nidaa Tounes party, the second largest political party with 55 deputies in the parliament, ranked second in the elections with 22.5 percent of the votes.

Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes are also coalition partners in the national government. They were expected to dominate the long-delayed polls, which will see officials elected in 350 municipalities for the first time since a 2011 uprising ended decades of authoritarian rule.

After polling stations closed at 6 pm, top Ennahda official Lotfi Zitoun told Reuters the party was more than 5 percent ahead of its secularist rival, Nidaa Tounes, citing vote counts observed by the party.

"This result is a reward for the new tolerant and democratic Ennahda ... Ennahda which searched for consensus," Zitoun said.

Ennahda will "continue to keep the consensus with our partners", spokesman Imed Khemiri said in a statement at party headquarters in Tunis, where supporters gathered outside and sang revolutionary songs from 2011.

"It's important that the two main parties won and it's important for the political balance in the country."

Official results are expected to be announced by May 9.

Low turnout

The High Election Commission announced that voter turnout was 33.7 percent.

A total of 179 polling stations across the country were closed due to "security" in accordance with the advice of the commission.

Local elections are seen as the next step in the democratic transition in the country following the popular uprising that ousted the long time autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

According to figures released by the election body, there are 2,747 candidates, including 860 independents, from 55 political parties running in the local elections.

The commission decided to postpone elections in eight centers in Mdhila in the south because of a mistake in the election papers. Clashes were reported in several areas.

Political parties have spoken about violations in several towns, including trying to influence voters and distribute money.

Adel Brinsi, a member of the Independent Electoral Commission, said some abuses occurred at the polling stations but they were not significant and did not affect the election results or their normal functioning.

Turnout was low in three polling stations visited by Reuters in the capital, Tunis, in the morning. Mostly elderly people were voting, while young people were sitting in cafes nearby.

Economic challenges

"I want a job," said a young man who gave his name as Ramzi. "No one cared for us in the past years and we suffer from unemployment."

The main challenge will be to match voters' expectations with local budgets in a country where the central government makes the main decisions about how and where money gets spent.

A new law envisages some decision-making being gradually devolved to the local level, although it remains unclear how that will work in practice.

Western donors want to provide funds for councils to start projects from day one.

That comes on top of billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund and various countries to help plug a budget deficit caused by political turmoil and one of the world’s highest public sector bills.

Source: AA