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Tunisian leader appeals for calm after postelection clashes

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 29, 2011 -- Updated 0758 GMT (1558 HKT)
Tunisians protest against the results of the country's first democratic vote, claiming fraud, on Tuesday.
Tunisians protest against the results of the country's first democratic vote, claiming fraud, on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rached Ghannouchi urges residents to show restraint
  • Violence occurs in the same town that ignited the Arab Spring
  • The unrest occurred after an independent commission disqualified some candidates
  • Supporters of the People's Petition protest in front of the mayor's building

Tunis, Tunisia (CNN) -- The leader of the moderate Islamist party that won Tunisian elections appealed for calm after protests flared in the city regarded as the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

Ennahda chairman, Rached Ghannouchi, urged Sidi Bouzid residents to show restraint and preserve property, lives and public facilities, TAP reported.

Residents should be "keenest on protecting the revolution whose first sparks were ignited from their city," he said.

Ghannouchi said the party is committed to establishing a fair, free government that will fight against corruption and restore all rights.

His assurance Friday came after two days of protests that left smoke billowing from buildings set ablaze by crowds angered by local election issues.

Violence broke out Thursday night in Sidi Bouzid over election disqualifications. A day later, protesters took to the streets again, clashing with security forces who hurled tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Sidi Bouzid was where a fruit vendor set himself ablaze after a police officer seized his goods in December, triggering anti-government protests that toppled the nation's strongman and inspired the regional revolutions dubbed the Arab Spring.

Authorities imposed a curfew in the city between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. following the clashes, the nation's state media said. Nighttime workers, and emergency and medical crews are exempt from the curfew.

Tunisia's election commission announced the Ennahda party as the winner of the weekend poll, taking 90 of 217 seats in an assembly that will write a new constitution.

The clashes erupted after the independent commission disqualified some candidates for seats won by the People's Petition, which is led by Hachemi Hamdi.

Supporters of the party protested in front of the mayor's building and also attacked an office of the once-banned Ennahda party.

The commission cited funding issues for the disqualifications, but did not specify what they were. Under Tunisian electoral law, parties are not allowed to receive funding from abroad or from private companies.

Journalist Zied Mhirsi contributed to this report

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