Rashid Al-Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia's ruling Al-Nahda Party has said that harmony between the ruling party and the other political parties is essential to get through the transitional phase and reach an open democracy. Speaking during a meeting with writers and journalists at Al-Ahram Institute in Cairo, Al-Ghannouchi pointed out that the party had ensured that there was harmony when drafting the constitution and in agreements to facilitate the work of the national constituent assembly.
"Tunisia is a smaller version of Egypt," he told his audience, pointing to several similarities between the two countries. The veteran politician added that he had expected the Egyptian revolution to erupt before Tunisia's. "The fact that the opposite happened," he said, "is an indication of the similarities."
Importantly, he opined that a major difference between Egypt and Tunisia is that the former created a committee to draft a new constitution whereas the latter started with a constituent assembly that produced a ready draft of the constitution which is now being discussed and voted on.
Stressing his call for harmony between political parties, Al-Ghannouchi explained his belief that no single party can have full authority, and that not even during the transitional phases or in a regular democracy can a party have 51 per cent of the authority. He also used the example of harmony regarding the constitution: "We have said that constitutions must contain clear, distinct and agreed upon matters of Sharia to eliminate concerns of secular or modern parties." He noted that Sharia "only means Islam, and scrutinising words or terms is pointless as long as the people have accepted Islam", which is able to absorb the values of modernity and, as a result, reform has emerged.
Tunisia, he said, is going through a phase of extremism similar to that experienced in Egypt during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. However, in Egypt, the Salafi movement adapted, abandoned violence and followed the law, whereas the Islamic movement in Tunisia is still in its early stages. "Parts of the Salafi movements are still hot-headed and we hope that they will not pose a threat to Tunisian society, which is peaceful by nature."
The Al-Nahda chief said that he holds the media most responsible for combating extremism and violence, which is why the meeting at Al-Ahram was important. Those attending included Al-Ahram Board Chairman Mamdouh Al-Wali and its Regional Director, Dr Hassan Abu Taleb.
Al-Ghannouchi concluded by expressing his astonishment at the notion made by some that the Arab Spring revolutions were linked to foreign forces. "This is a slur on the young people of Egypt and Tunisia who emerged bare-chested to confront the tyrants… the foreign forces have only now emerged, after failing to hold on to Mubarak and Ben Ali, to look for their interests; but, that is their right."