PREVIEW-Tunisian vote set to give Islamists share of power

Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:51pm GMT

* Sunday's election is first in wake of Arab Spring uprisings

* Islamist party likely to win biggest share of vote

* Secularists say their liberal values are under threat

* Ordinary Tunisians preoccupied with economic woes

By Christian Lowe and Tarek Amara

TUNIS, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Tunisians will hand a share of power to an Islamist party when they vote on Sunday in an historic first democratic election which could set the template for other Arab countries convulsed by the "Arab Spring" uprisings.

The birthplace of the revolts which re-shaped the political landscape of the Middle East, Tunisia in January forced autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia and set in train a transition to democracy.

The new freedoms have allowed the moderate Islamist Ennahda party -- banned by Ben Ali -- to emerge as front-runner in the vote. That though is causing anxiety among the country's secular elite, which believes its liberal values are under threat.

With so much at stake, there are concerns that even the smallest question mark over the legitimacy of the vote could bring supporters of rival parties out onto the streets.   Continued...

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