Concerns for Christians in Tunisia as Islamists take most votes

There are concerns that the freedom of Christians will be compromised in the new Tunisia after the runaway success of Islamists in the country’s first free elections.

Preliminary results show that the Ennahda (Renaissance) Party has won up to 40 per cent of the votes cast in Sunday’s election, making it the largest party in the new 217-seat Constituent Assembly.

Tunisia is the first of the Arab Spring countries to hold free elections. Although Ennahda has taken the greatest share of the votes, it is expected to fall short of an absolute majority, meaning that it will have to seek coalition partners.

The party has reportedly already entered into coalition talks with Ettakatol and the Congress for the Republic, two left-of-centre parties that came in just behind Ennahda in the election.

Dr Raouf Ghattas, who spent four years in Tunisia with International Mission Board, said that although Ennahda is regarded as moderate, its links to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are a cause for concern.

He told Christian Today: “As we watch the results of the elections in Tunisia, our hearts are burdened for the believers there as the Islamists are making great gains.

“The Ennahda Party, even though the media calls it a moderate Islamic party, is well attached to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

“There could be difficult days ahead.”

Once the coalition has been formed, its first task will be to draft a new constitution for the country.

Many Tunisians will be hoping that the new Assembly makes a clear break from the repressive dictatorships of the last half century.

Rafik Abdessalem, researcher at the Al-Jazeera Study Centre in Doha, said the election results would have consequences across the entire Arab world.

“I think it’s very important,” he told The Times. “The revolution has highlighted that the Arab world is inter-connected in terms of politics.

“What happens in Tunisia is not just a local matter. People are watching what is happening in Tunisia. If it’s a success, Egypt will have a chance to go in the right direction.”