Tunisia's capital elects first female mayor

Image: Souad Abderrahim, a candidate of the Islamist Ennahda party celebrat
Souad Abderrahim, a candidate of the Islamist Ennahda party, celebrates after being elected mayor of the city of Tunis. Copyright Zoubeir Souissi
Copyright Zoubeir Souissi
By Associated Press with NBC News World News
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Souad Abderrahim is from Tunisia's moderate Islamic party, which advocates for separating politics from religion.


TUNIS, Tunisia — A woman from Tunisia's moderate Islamic party was elected on Tuesday as mayor of the capital city, Tunis, the first time a woman holds the post.

Souad Abderrahim, a 54-year-old pharmacist of the Ennahdha party, won the post in the second round of voting by the municipal council. She defeated her top rival, Kamel Idir, of the party Nida Tounes, founded by the Tunisian president.

Abderrahim, a former lawmaker and militant for women's rights, doesn't wear a veil. She was the only winner so far among a half-dozen women from the Ennahdha party who competed for mayoral posts in the region around Tunis.

Tunisia's municipal elections were held May 6, but newly-elected municipal councils are only now voting for mayors.

In 2016, Ennahdha declared that it was separating politics from religion, stepping away from the notion of political Islam typically embodied by Islamic parties.

Abderrahim said in an interview with The Associated Press during campaigning that cleaning up the capital and planting trees would be her first priority.

She also said that the female candidates put forth by her party constitute a "message aimed at reassuring the women of my country" that advances made by women in the North African nation would not be compromised by her party.

Tunisia has been the most advanced among Arab nations regarding women's rights since gaining independence from France in 1956, with its first president Habib Bourguiba enshrining some principles of equality of men and women in the constitution.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are set for 2019.

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