TUNIS, Tunisia, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Tunisia's Islamist party, Ennahda, conceded defeat late Monday to its secular rival, Nidaa Tounes, following the release of initial national election results.
"We accept the result," said Ennahda's former foreign minister, Rafik Abdessalem. "There are some irregularities, but we consider we succeeded in this process to hold transparent democratic elections."
Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi telephoned Nidda Tounes leader Beji Caid Essebi to congratulate him on his victory.
Nidaa Tounes won 83 seats in Tunisia's Parliament and about 38 percent of the popular vote, compared to Ennahda's 68 seats and about 31 percent of the vote.
Essebi, speaking with France 24, said he appreciated Ghannouchi's congratulatory phone call.
"Ennahda lost for three reasons," Tahar Chegrouche, a Tunisian sociologist and election observer, explained to the New York Times. "The increase in unemployment, the economy and their perceived laxity against terrorism... It was all this together. And people voted for a single force that could combat that."
The Nidaa Tounes party, an alliance of liberals, secularists and former government leaders, was formed in response to the post-revolution actions of the Ennahda party in power. Nidaa Tournes has been critical of the Islamist drift of the country and has called for a progressive and secular society in Tunisia.