Tunisia's legislative polls expected to deliver no clear winner
Tunisian elections held on Sunday amid a number of political and economic challenges for the country were expected to deliver a fractious parliament.
Around 41.3 percent of registered voters cast their ballots in the polls, according to the electoral commission.
It was Tunisia's third legislative election since the 2011 popular revolt, which toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Shortly after polls closed at 6 pm, the moderate Islamist Ennahda movement and newly formed Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) Party both claimed to have come first. However, the Sigma Conseil polling agency said Ennahda was in the lead with around 17.5 percent of the votes, followed by the liberal Qalb Tounes.
That would still be a massive loss for Ennahda, which is defending its current majority in parliament.
Sunday's polls were seen as a test for Tunisia's established political parties against the backdrop of challenges from nascent parties and independent political newcomers.
Last month, presidential contenders from the North African country's major political blocs, including Ennahda and the secular Nida Tounes Party, suffered a shock defeat. Two political outsiders - independent academic Kais Saied and jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui of the Qalb Tounes Party - made it into next week's presidential run-off.
"I expect a new-look parliament," said political analyst Salaheddine Jourchi. "The parties, which were once in power, including Ennahda, will experience a strong shake-up. In contrast, new powers such as Karoui's Qalb Tounes Party will ascend."
Jourchi predicted that no bloc would gain an outright majority to form a government on its own and that there would be "a lot of political horse-trading to form a government."
Around 15,000 candidates running on party lists or as independents stood for election to the 217-seat parliament. About 7.2 million people were registered to vote.
Official results are expected to be announced by Tuesday.
Tunisian voters will head back to the polls for the presidential run-off vote on 13 October. Tunisia, the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, has been roiled by social unrest and economic hardships in recent years. It has been under pressure from international lenders, mainly the International Monetary Fund, to take drastic measures to revamp its economy. (dpa)