Islamists to rule Tunisia; clashes in cradle of revolt

Ennahda party wins 90 seats in 217-seat assembly; violent protest in birthplace of uprising; election is first in wake of "Arab Spring."

Ennahda party Tunisia 58 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ennahda party Tunisia 58
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TUNIS - The leader of the Islamist party which won Tunisia's first free election appealed for calm in the town where the "Arab Spring" began, accusing forces linked to the ousted president of fanning violence there.
Party officials said coalition talks were already under way and they expected to form a new government within 10 days.
Troops fired in the air on Friday to disperse a crowd attacking government offices in Sidi Bouzid, where 10 months ago vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in a protest that ignited revolts around the Arab world.
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The Ennahda party, which was banned for decades and its leaders forced to flee abroad, will lead Tunisia's new government after an election victory likely to set a template for other Middle Eastern states rocked by uprisings this year.
Ennahda has tried to reassure secularists by stressing it will not impose a Muslim moral code.
It will not impose the wearing of the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, on women because all attempts to do that in other Arab states have failed, the party's leader said on Friday.
Rachid Ghannouchi said women would have jobs in the new government "whether they wear a veil or don't wear a veil."
Ennahda would honor an undertaking to finish writing a new constitution within one year, he said at his first news conference since the election. It would respect all Tunisia's international treaties when it forms a new government.
The unrest was not linked directly to the Ennahda win, but to the fact that a party headed by a businessman popular in the town, a former supporter of Ben Ali, had been eliminated from the ballot over allegations of campaign finance violations.