Hassene Dridi / AP Photo

Official Tunisia tally confirms secular party win

The secular Nidaa Tounes party won 85 seats in the 217-member parliament while Ennahda won 69 seats, officials said

Tunisia's leading secular party Nidaa Tounes has won 85 seats in the new 217-member parliament after Sunday's election, while the once dominant Ennahda party secured 69 seats, according to official results released by electoral authorities on Thursday.

The parliamentary vote, which attracted a high turnout, was one of the last steps in the North African country's transition to democracy after the 2011 uprising against Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Election Commission head Chafik Sarsar said Nidaa Tounes lost one seat in the southern city of Kasserine following reports of widespread election violations by its partisans in that city.

By voting for Nidaa Tounes, Tunisians appeared to prefer the country's long-established elites to Ennahda. During campaign, Ennahda cast itself as a party that learned from the past, but Nidaa Tounes appeared to have capitalized on criticism that the Islamist party had mismanaged the economy and had failed to tackle hardline militants.

Ennahda, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the Arab Spring revolts, conceded defeat in the election that was only the second free vote since Ben Ali's autocratic rule.

With no outright majority, Nidaa Tounes will need to form a coalition with partners in negotiations that media reports say have already begun although it will likely take weeks before a new government is established. Ennahda has called for a national unity government including its Islamist movement.

Nidaa Tounes is led by Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran politician who previously served as foreign minister in the 1980s and parliament speaker in the early 1990s under Ben Ali.

The party, which includes businessmen, trade unionists and politicians from the old regime, has all but ruled out forming a coalition with the Islamists, describing it as "against their nature," and will turn to a collection of smaller parties to garner the necessary 109-seat majority.

Running a distant third was the Free Patriotic Union of Slim Rihai, a millionaire football club owner and political neophyte, with 16 seats.

In fourth place came the left-wing coalition of parties known as the Popular Front, which had two of its members assassinated by extremists in 2013.

The liberal Afek Tounes came in fifth place with eight seats.

The remaining 24 seats were split among another dozen small parties.

Presidential elections featuring dozens of candidates are set for Nov. 23.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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