The leader of Tunisia’s Al-Nahda Party has wished for stability in Egypt and for the people to reconcile their differences. Rashid Ghannouchi told London-based Hayat newspaper that he had gone to Egypt to get the Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition together but had failed.
“I suffer for Egypt’s situation,” he said. “There are thousands of dead and wounded in a state considered to be the centre of the Arab world.” He wondered aloud if the Brotherhood had refused to engage with other groups when it was in power. “The last government before the coup included many independent ministers,” he said in answer to his own question. “Either way, in Tunisia we extended our hands to all parties. Some responded while others did not. In any event, the Egyptian situation proves the failure of the Egyptian elite to consent.”
Pointing out that some people had wanted to market the Egyptian model in Tunisia, which explains why some opposition parties welcomed Egypt’s coup and considered it a revolution, Ghannouchi said that some of them even hoped to transfer it to Tunisia. “However, when the Egyptian situation revealed its true colours the people were revolted and preferred peaceful means to change Tunisia’s government; the opposition was forced to deny the coup.”
Al-Nahda Party believes in Tunisia, the veteran politician argued. “We preserved personal freedoms and Tunisians’ modern lifestyle. We also preserved social freedoms, such as freedom of the press and expression, demonstrations and strikes.” As the lead partner in the ruling coalition, he explained, the party even institutionalised freedoms in the Constitution and maintained the public facilities, transportation and salaries as well as the independence of the authorities. “This is important during revolutionary transformational times when the security situation is volatile.”
According to Ghannouchi, the prevailing belief was that an Islamic party would impose the veil and ban alcohol. Not true, he insisted. “Women enjoy freedom and the state is not concerned with someone’s private life. The economy has improved by 6.3 per cent from a negative before the elections. We have created more than 100,000 jobs and supported essential commodities.” As he said, Al-Nahda Party believes in the State of Tunisia.