TUNIS - Tunisia's ruling Islamist Ennahda party is set to re-elect its leader at its first public congress this week, as part of an effort to shore up its moderate credentials and ease a long-running standoff over the role of Islam in politics.

Banned under Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was toppled last year in mass protests that sparked the Arab Spring, Ennahda won the most seats in elections to a constituent assembly in October and formed a government in coalition with two secular parties.

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Ennahda has since come under pressure from both hardline Salafi Muslims, calling for the introduction of Islamic law, and secular opposition parties who worry that it will slowly Islamise one of the Arab world's most secular countries.

The four-day congress, which began on Thursday, will be watched closely by secularists and Salafis for indications of which direction Ennahda is likely to steer the North African state.