The leader of the Islamist party that won Tunisia's first free election appealed for calm yesterday in the town where the Arab Spring began – and accused forces linked to the ousted president of fanning violence there.
The Ennahda party, which was banned for decades and its leaders exiled abroad, will lead Tunisia's next government after an election victory likely to set a template for other Middle Eastern states rocked by uprisings this year. Party officials said that coalition talks were under way and that they expected to form a government within 10 days. Last Sunday's elections in the North African state were deemed free and fair by international observers.
But there was unrest yesterday in Sidi Bouzid, where 10 months ago a vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, set fire to himself in a protest that ignited revolts around the Arab world. Troops fired in the air to disperse a crowd that was attacking government offices.
Ennahda's leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, said the latest unrest was not linked directly to his party's win, but to the fact that a party headed by a businessman popular in the town – a former supporter of the ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali – had been eliminated from the ballot over allegations of campaign finance violations. He blamed the clashes on forces connected to Mr Ben Ali.
Mr Ghannouchi also said that the adminstration would not impose a Muslim moral code and that women could have government jobs "whether they wear a veil or don't wear a veil".