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Ghannouchi and Essebsi together

January 14, 2016 at 9:44 am

The presence of the Head of Ennahda Movement Sheikh Rashid Ghannouchi at the opening ceremony of the Nidaa Tounes conference did not go unnoticed but did go without causing great controversy. Despite the fact that his presence at the ceremony is considered normal, given the fact that heads of parties and organisations usually accept the invitations they receive to attend official or partisan events, the atmosphere surrounding the future of Nidaa Tounes has given Ghannouchi’s attendance an exceptional nature.

There are two issues that gained the attention of those observing the situation and provoked wide reactions on social media. The first is the warm welcome the leader of Ennahda received from the Nidaa Tounes party leaders and members. What was more astonishing were the actions of the attending women, as Sheikh Rashid received special welcomes from many female members, many of who not only shook hands with him, but took pictures with him. This is not a simple matter, as Beji Caid Essebsi, the founder of Nidaa Tounes party, owes the million women who elected him as President of the Republic and who gave them their confidence and trust as a response to Ennahda, which frightened them with their actions in power. This means that Ghannouchi has succeeded, in the final phase, in regaining the confidence and trust of many, inducing senior and lower level officials and members of Nidaa Tounes, the secular and liberal party. This caused one of the party’s leaders to resign on the same day.

In addition to this, Ghannouchi’s speech at the conference’s opening ceremony contained many messages, the most important of which was when he said that Tunisia was like a bird flying in the sky with two wings represented by Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes. He stressed in particular the fact that Nidaa Tounes “created balance in political life” and called, in this context, for the need to “eliminate the urge for exclusion and revenge, because consensus is what the country needs today.” By saying this, he is praising a party that was founded to overthrow Ennahda and politically combat it, but now Ghannouchi is praising it for having achieved political balance in the country, and has made it an inevitable condition to ensure stability and to protect the democratic transition from a relapse and failure.

What is currently occurring in Tunisia is unprecedented in other Arab experiences. What had and continues to happen is that an ongoing war is waged between the Islamists and secularists, each wanting to deny the other and do everything possible to eradicate one another. However, in this country, Ghannouchi is trying hard to preserve a secular force in order to continue to be in power and not to leave a dangerous vacuum in the country. Despite the fact that Ennahda bloc is the top in the parliament, which could constitutionally allow it to form a government under its rule, it instead continued its humble involvement in the government staff and worked on enhancing the ranks of Essebsi and his son. By doing so, Ennahda was successful in indirectly eliminating the left-wing and its allies opposed to Ennahda from within Nidaa Tounes. They had flocked around Mohsen Marzouk and were preparing to establish a new party. Hence, Ennahda had achieved more than one gain without directly interfering in a matter that was very complicated and dangerous. In order to disable his opponents, Ghannouchi stressed in his speech that there were Tunisians who wanted to eliminate other Tunisians at a time that Tunisia is in need of all of its people, adding: “I am happy with a strong and united Nidaa Tounes and I am sure that Essebsi is happy with a strong and united Ennahda as well.”

While waiting for the pro-Mohsen Marzouk wing to explore the opinions it had announced regarding their new party, a party that will enhance the circle of Ennahda’s opponents, Rashid Ghannouchi will continue his plan which aims to build strong relations with Beji Caid Essebsi and his supporters. This may be a temporary solution, but it reveals the large extent of pragmatism in the Tunisian parties’ policies following the revolution.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 12 January 2016.

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