Tunisia's moderate Islamist party Ennahda to lead fractured new parliament

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TUNIS (Reuters) - The moderate Islamist Ennahda will be the largest party in Tunisia’s new parliament, preliminary official results showed on Wednesday, but with only 52 of 217 seats it may struggle to build a governing coalition.

The results, along with those in the first round of a separate presidential election last month, appear to underscore dissatisfaction with the major parties.

Though Ennahda came first, it has 17 fewer seats than it won in the last parliamentary election in 2014, when it came second to a secular coalition which has since fallen apart.

Ennahda has been a member of several governing coalitions since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that have failed to improve living standards or public services in the young democracy.

Any political deadlock resulting from the sharply fragmented parliament would complicate Tunisia’s efforts to address chronic economic problems including a large public debt and unemployment of 15%.

Media mogul Nabil Karoui’s Heart of Tunisia party came second, with 38 seats, while Tayyar took 22 seats and Karama 21 seats. Four other parties took between four and 17 seats each.

The results, announced in a televised statement by the electoral commission, are still subject to appeal. They are roughly in line with an exit poll published on Sunday that also showed Ennahda coming first and Heart of Tunisia second.

Karoui, who was released from pre-trial detention in a corruption case on Wednesday, is also a candidate in Sunday’s presidential election, where he will face an independent, Kais Saied, who is backed by Ennahda.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool