Heart of Tunisia party claims victory in parliamentary election

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Supporters of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party celebrate, after the party gained most votes in Sunday’s parliamentary election, according to an exit poll by Sigma Conseil broadcasted by state television, in Tunis, Tunisia Oct. 6, 2019. (Reuters)
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Election officials start counting marked ballots after polling stations closed during a parliamentary election in Tunis, Tunisia, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP)
Updated 06 October 2019

Heart of Tunisia party claims victory in parliamentary election

  • Ennahdha also claimed that it had won
  • Preliminary official results are not expected until Wednesday

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.

 


Iraq officials must ‘step up’ to enact reforms: UN envoy

Updated 46 min 25 sec ago

Iraq officials must ‘step up’ to enact reforms: UN envoy

  • UN has put forward a phased roadmap calling for an immediate end to violence and electoral reform within 2 weeks
  • Protesters have escalated their demands to deep-rooted regime change

BAGHDAD: Iraqi officials must ramp up their response to mass demonstrations demanding an overhaul of the political system, the UN representative in Baghdad told AFP in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who heads the UN’s Iraq mission (UNAMI), said the country’s authorities must “step up to the plate and make things happen.”
“They are elected by the people, they are accountable to them,” she said.
Protests broke out in Baghdad and the country’s Shiite-majority south in early October over rampant corruption, lack of jobs and notoriously poor services.
One in five people lives below the poverty line, despite the vast oil wealth of OPEC’s second biggest producer.
The United Nations has proposed a phased roadmap that, in a crucial step, was endorsed by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani after meeting Hennis-Plasschaert.
It calls for an immediate end to violence, electoral reform and anti-graft measures within two weeks followed by constitutional amendments and infrastructure legislation within three months.
Hennis-Plasschaert discussed the plan with lawmakers on the sidelines of a parliamentary session on Wednesday, telling them: “Now is the time to act, otherwise any momentum will be lost — lost at a time when many, many Iraqis demand concrete results.”
Protesters have escalated their demands to deep-rooted regime change, unimpressed by government promises of reform.
“There is lots at stake here. Public trust is at an all-time low,” Hennis-Plasschaert told AFP.
“Nothing is more detrimental to public trust than saying ‘A’ and doing ‘B.’ Nothing is more harmful than overpromising and under-delivering,” she added.
Hennis-Plasschaert, 46, was named UNAMI chief last year after having served as the Netherlands defense minister from 2012 until 2017.
She is one of the very few diplomatic figures who meets with Sistani, the revered 89-year-old cleric who never appears in public.
Following their meeting on Monday, she said Sistani, known as the marjaiyah, feared political forces were “not serious enough” to enact reforms.
“If the three authorities — executive, judiciary and legislative — are not able or willing to conduct these reforms decisively, there must be a way to think of a different approach,” she warned at the time.
Pressed by AFP on what the “different approach” could be, Hennis-Plasschaert declined to elaborate, citing “the confidentiality we have with him.”
“The conversation with Grand Ayatollah Sistani is always straightforward, open, and frank, but I cannot go into further detail,” the top diplomat said.
Demonstrators gathering in the main protest camp of Baghdad’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square on Wednesday said her meeting with Sistani helped bolster their crowds.
Hennis-Plasschaert met with protesters in Tahrir last month, even riding in the tuk-tuk rickshaw that has become an icon of the uprising for ferrying wounded protesters to medics.
“They are losing brothers and friends in the streets,” she said of the young protesters she had met.
More than 300 people have died and 15,000 people have been wounded since demonstrations erupted on October 1.
“We are witnessing rising numbers of deaths and injured every day. It’s horrific,” Hennis-Plasschaert said.
The protests initially fractured the political class but it has rallied in recent days to prop up the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
Politicians closed ranks following a series of meetings with top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, an extremely influential figure who often brokers deals among Iraq’s fractured political class.
Hennis-Plasschaert told AFP she did not seek to be a counter-weight to Iranian influence but said she feared that “spoilers” could prevent progress.
“This country unfortunately knows many actors, external, internal, that could act as spoilers (and) undermine the legitimate demands of the people,” she said.