TUNIS, TUNISIA - Tunisia's parliament looks deeply fractured after an election on Sunday, with an exit poll showing the moderate Islamist Ennahda in first place with only 17.5% of votes, meaning the coming period of government formation will likely prove long and hard.
Any government that does emerge will face the same challenges that have bedeviled its predecessors: high unemployment, inflation and public debt, a powerful union that resists change and foreign lenders who demand it.
The parliamentary divisions add to an already febrile political climate after voters last month sent an independent and a media mogul detained on corruption charges through to next week's second round runoff of a separate presidential election.
Eight years after Tunisians rose up to end decades of autocratic rule and bring in democracy, many have grown disillusioned by the inability of repeated governing coalitions to address a weak economy and poor public services.
Sunday's vote was the third free parliamentary election in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution. But preliminary turnout figures showed only 41% of registered voters cast their ballots.
"After the revolution, we were all optimistic and our hopes were high. But hope has been greatly diminished now as a result of the disastrous performance of the rulers and the former parliament," said Basma Zoghbi, a worker for Tunis municipality.
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