Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Al-Nahda Party, has pledged that the Islamic movement will not allow a repeat of the 1992 Algerian scenario to occur in his country. This, he says, is because of Al-Nahda’s rejection of extremism and fanaticism, despite what has been witnessed with regard to the assassination of the Secretary-General of the opposition National Democratic Party of Tunisia, Chokri Belaid.
Speaking to the Algerian newspaper, El-Khabar, Ghannouchi said, “There is a big difference between the circumstances in the two countries, when we see what Tunisia is currently going through.” Ghannouchi ruled out any army intervention in the Tunisian political arena.
“The Tunisian army is professional and does not interfere in political affairs,” he insisted. “It shall protect the borders and carry out its national duties, but army officers will not replace politicians in solving the problems of the country.”
In response to the accusation that Al-Nahda, and even Ghannouchi himself, was behind the assassination of Mr. Belaid, Ghannouchi said, “These people [making the accusations] are ideologues, politicians and radical rivals. They look at Al-Nahda only as a backward movement and the greatest evil, and they look at all Islamists as symbols of backwardness, so they have seized on this opportunity to turn a catastrophe into an opportunity to attack the ruling party.”
He said that his accusers are “strangely naive” in their attempts to “distort the truth”. He denied being “a new Ben Ali” fashioned against “a new Bouazizi called Chokri Belaid”. Can any sane person, he asked, believe that it is in his interest or in Al-Nahda’s interest to exacerbate the current situation in any way?
When asked about the claim by interim Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali that he would resign if the technocrat government which he seeks to set up does not receive the confidence of the Constituent Assembly, and whether this will be a beginning of a revolt within Al-Nahda, Ghannouchi was clear. “Al-Nahda is strict about the issue of its unity, but inside the movement there are various opinions; all opinions flow freely, so I do not see that the unity of the movement is threatened.” He pointed out that the final judgment on the Prime Minister’s statement will be made at the meeting of the Executive Office and the Shura Council.
He added that the leaders of Al-Nahda put Tunisia’s interests above anything else. “We are negotiating with our partners in the ruling troika to serve best the interests of Tunisia and the Tunisian people.” National dialogue, said Ghannouchi, is the priority through which a number of issues will be resolved, notably the constitution and electoral law.