Tunisians filled polling stations on Sunday to elect a new Parliament, expressing a strong desire and some trepidation that, after months of political turmoil, the country would turn a corner nearly four years after the revolution.
Officials said the turnout was close to 60 percent — based on partial figures — which election observers said demonstrated Tunisians’ support for democracy.
The elections are the second in Tunisia since the popular uprising that overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and set off the Arab Spring. They will bring in a new Parliament and government for a five-year term. Presidential elections are scheduled to follow next month.
Tunisia is being closely watched as the one country of the Arab Spring to go through a revolution and change of government and emerge peacefully with a pluralistic democratic system. Unlike Syria, Egypt and Libya, which have been embroiled in conflict of varying degrees, Tunisians have bridged deep political divisions and prevented an unraveling of their country, voters, election observers and officials said.
“We had some fears about the turnout,” said Juini Nooredine, who was running a polling station downtown. “But what happened was the opposite. Tunisians gave themselves a challenge and showed they want democracy and elections.” He paused, then added, “So the revolution succeeded.”
Two parties are vying to lead the government: the Islamist party Ennahda, which led a coalition government for two years from 2011, and Nidaa Tounes, whose leader is the 87-year-old former prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi. Nidaa Tounes has positioned itself as a secular, modern alternative to the Islamists.
Official election results are not expected for at least 48 hours.
Mr. Essebsi hinted soon after polls closed that his party was heading for victory. “We have positive indicators that Nidaa Tounes is in the lead,” he told journalists and supporters.
Conversely, Rafik Abdessalem, a former foreign minister from Ennahda, said he was confident his party was in a good position.