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Tunisia Secular Party Confident of Lead in Parliament Vote

Tunisia's main secular opposition party is claiming victory in the country's historic election for a new 217-member parliament.

Elections officials are expected to release partial results later Monday, with the final tally due by Thursday.

The Nidaa Tounes party says it has won close to 80 seats, citing exit polls and a preliminary ballot count. The moderate Islamist Ennahda party was expected to take around 60 seats.

Some 90 parties competed in Sunday's election, the latest democratic step since Tunisians overthrew autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Around 60 percent of Tunisia's 5.2 million registered voters participated in the vote for the nation's first five-year parliament following a popular uprising that triggered the Arab Spring nearly four years ago.

Presidential elections are set for late November.

Ahead of the vote, Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes were expected to win the most seats in the 217-member parliament.

President Barack Obama hailed the election as an important milestone in the country's historic political transition. He said Tunisians continue to "inspire people across their region and around the world.''

Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is committed to working with the next democratically elected government of Tunisia that results from the vote.

Compared to other Arab Spring countries, Tunisia has been relatively peaceful.
However, there has been some discontent over the slow pace of change and the continued economic problems following the revolution that was large triggered by high unemployment.

The country has experienced some turmoil in the last three and a half years, including political assassinations, labor unrest, high inflation and attacks from Islamist extremists.

Still, Tunisia's democratic transition has remained on track, unlike in other Arab Spring countries in the region.