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Secular leader in Tunisia says alliance with Ennahda possible

Former Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid El-Sebsi said in an interview with Reuters that his party is ready to ally with the Islamist Ennahda movement.


El-Sebsi, the president of the secular Call for Tunisia Party and former chairman of the Tunisian parliament under the government of ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, explained that he is ready to join a coalition with Ennahda if either party achieves victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections. He also pointed out that his party would be “realistic” in dealing with the outcome of the elections.

El-Sebsi, aged 86, added that his party is “democratic and does not exclude anyone”.

The Tunisian Parliament has not yet finalised the elections law, which will authorise an independent committee to set the date for legislative, municipal and presidential elections.

El-Sebsi said that he does not expect an Islamist government to lead Tunisia again after what he described as “the Islamists’ mismanagement and their toleration of Salafists and extremists, which contributed to the spread of terrorism in the country.”

He added, however, that it was not in Tunisia’s interest to “settle scores with Islamists”.

Ennahda’s leaders have refuted El-Sebsi’s criticisms, explaining that the main terrorist group in Tunisia was actually founded during El-Sebsi’s tenure as prime minister, and that the prime minister under the Ennahda-led government, Ali Al-Aridh, was the one who labelled them a terrorist group after the 2011 Tunisian revolution.

Prior to the last parliamentary elections, in which Ennahda won the largest number of seats taking more than 40 per cent of the vote, El-Sebsi had predicted that Ennahda would only win two per cent of the vote.

Following Ennahda’s impressive electoral victory, El-Sebsi founded the Call for Tunisia Party, which includes among its founding members senior figures of the Ben Ali regime.

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