* Ennahda party wins 90 seats in 217-seat assembly
* Violent protest in birthplace of uprising
* Election is first in wake of "Arab Spring"
(Adds Ghannouchi saying currency will be made convertible)
By Tarek Amara and Christian Lowe
TUNIS, Oct 28 The leader of the Islamist party
which won Tunisia's first free election appealed for calm in the
town where the "Arab Spring" began, accusing forces linked to
the ousted president of fanning violence there.
Party officials said coalition talks were already under way
and they expected to form a new government within 10 days.
Troops fired in the air on Friday to disperse a crowd
attacking government offices in Sidi Bouzid, where 10 months ago
vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in a
protest that ignited revolts around the Arab world.
The Ennahda party, which was banned for decades and its
leaders forced to flee abroad, will lead Tunisia's new
government after an election victory likely to set a template
for other Middle Eastern states rocked by uprisings this year.
Ennahda has tried to reassure secularists by stressing it
will not impose a Muslim moral code.
It will not impose the wearing of the Islamic headscarf, or
hijab, on women because all attempts to do that in other Arab
states have failed, the party's leader said on Friday.
Rachid Ghannouchi said women would have jobs in the new
government "whether they wear a veil or don't wear a veil".
Ennahda would honour an undertaking to finish writing a new
constitution within one year, he said at his first news
conference since the election. It would respect all Tunisia's
international treaties when it forms a new government.
He blamed the Sidi Bouzid clashes on forces connected with
ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
The unrest was not linked directly to the Ennahda win, but
to the fact that a party headed by a businessman popular in the
town, a former supporter of Ben Ali, had been eliminated from
the ballot over allegations of campaign finance violations.
UNREST IN TOWN OF "MARTYR"
Two witnesses in Sidi Bouzid told Reuters a large crowd had
tried to attack the local government headquarters.
"The military are trying to disperse the people with shots
in the air and tear gas," one of the witnesses, Attia Athmouni,
said by telephone.
The witnesses said shops and schools were shut and a
security forces helicopter was hovering overhead.
Late on Thursday, after officials announced they would
cancel several seats won by the Popular List, a crowd set fire
to an Ennahda office and the office of the mayor. The party had
been running in fourth place in the election, according to
preliminary results, before its seats were cancelled.
An Interior Ministry source said a night curfew would be
imposed in the town from 7 p.m. (1800 GMT) until 5 a.m.
Ghannouchi paid tribute to the town's role in the revolution
which forced Ben Ali to flee the country.
"We salute Sidi Bouzid and its sons who launched the spark
and we hope that God will have made Mohamed Bouazizi a martyr,"
said the Islamic scholar, who spent 22 years exiled in Britain.
Announcing the results, election commission members said
Ennahda had won 90 seats in the 217-seat assembly, which will
draft a new constitution, form an interim government and
schedule new elections, probably for early 2013.
The Islamists' nearest rival, the secularist Congress for
the Republic, won 30 seats.
TURKISH PM IS MODEL
The complex election system that replaced the rigged,
one-horse races conducted before the revolution made it
impossible for one party to win a majority of seats. Ennahda is
expected to form a government with two of the secularist
The Islamists have already said they will put forward Hamadi
Jbeli, Ghannouchi's deputy and a former political prisoner, for
the post of prime minister. Jbeli said on Friday
the economy would take priority in coalition negotiations.
"We are going to speed up to build the new government," he
said. "It will take between a week and 10 days."
Ghannouchi told Reuters in an interview he would pursue a
liberal economic policy, including making the dinar currency
Ennahda lies at the moderate end of the spectrum of Islamist
parties in the Middle East. Ghannouchi models his approach on
the that of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
His officials say there will be no restrictions on foreign
tourists -- a big source of revenue -- drinking alcohol or
wearing bikinis on the country's Mediterranean beaches.
The victory is the first for Islamists since the Hamas
faction won a Palestinian election seven years ago.
It will resonate in Egypt, where a party with ideological
ties to Ennahda is expected to do well in a multi-stage
parliamentary poll that starts in November.
One of the party's most prominent candidates is a
businesswoman who does not wear the Islamic veil, or hijab, and
this week sang along to pop songs at a party rally.
Ennahda has also reached out to anxious investors by saying
it will not impose Islamic banking rules. It says it is inclined
to keep the finance minister and central bank governor in their
posts when it forms the new government.
(Additional reporting by Abdelaziz Boumzar; Writing by
Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Roche)