TUNIS: The detained Tunisian presidential candidate Nabil Karoui said in a statement that his Heart of Tunisia party had come first in Sunday’s parliamentary election, without saying where the information came from.
Polling stations for the seven-million-strong electorate closed at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT). Ennahdha and Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) -- led by detained business tycoon Karoui -- were both swift to claim victory.
Two exit polls after the close of voting showed Ennahdha in the lead with 40 seats out of 217, while Qalb Tounes was in second, with one pollster giving it 35 seats, and another 33.
However, preliminary official results are not expected until Wednesday.
In the runup to the legislative vote, Ennahdha and Qalb Tounes officially ruled out forming an alliance, and with a plethora of parties and movements running, the stage could be set for complex and rowdy negotiations -- or even a second poll.
The legislative vote comes after candidates aligned with traditional political parties were eclipsed by independent runners during the first round of presidential polls last month.
"According to preliminary results collected at voting stations, Qalb Tounes has come first", party spokesman Hatem Mliki said.
But its main rival Ennahdha also claimed that it had "according to preliminary results... won the elections."
In the first round of the presidential vote Karoui, held since August on money-laundering charges, came second behind Kais Saied, an independent law professor.
Courts rejected several appeals for his release during campaigning.