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Tunisia: Disagreements after coalition building

October 25, 2016 at 4:57 pm

The relationship between the former President of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, and the leadership of Ennahda party is not the result of post-revolutionary alliance, but rather the product of joint struggles during the tenure of [Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s] regime. It was a time in which those exiled from the various parties grew closer together in struggle. When the Congress for the Republic was founded in Tunisia in 2001, Marzouki led a number of activities against the now ousted President Ben Ali which served as the common denominator between his caucus and the Ennahda party.

After the success of the 2011 revolution and the collapse of the head of the authoritarian regime in Tunisia, the elections for the Constituent Assembly were to be an important deciding factor. A coalition was formed and Marzouki became the president and the Ennahda party worked toward acquiring government leadership in a coalition government, which united politicians from three different parties: the Congress, Ennahda and the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties, headed by Moustapha Ben Jafar who became the president of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia.

In the elections that took place in 2014, and despite the regressions made by the Congress party and its loss of the majority in the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia, Marzouki was lucky to have won the majority of Ennahda’s votes, which granted him the opportunity to progress to the second round of elections with a great deal of votes. In addition, the political coalition began to slowly disintegrate from the point that Ennahda decided to form a second coalition with Nidaa Tounes, allowing them to participate in the elections.

Ennahda had its own set of calculations aside from its role in opposition. The party chose the consensus approach because the current democratic transitional period cannot afford or handle serious political divisions or conflicts, especially between the two biggest parties. The roots of the alliance between Ennahda party and Nidaa Tounes can be traced back to a meeting that took place between Rached Ghannouchi and Baji Caid Essebsi in Paris before the 2014 elections. The meetings between the two politicians continued well after the elections with the party’s participation in the governments of Habib Essid and Youssef Al-Shahed.

Moncef Marzouki’s recent criticisms of Ennahda have begun to take a sharp turn as of late, especially with its recent alliance with the remnants of the “old regime”. These recent developments all show that Ennahda has the right to choose the recent direction that it has taken; however, it should have informed its allies of such a change in its course and in its programmes. Marzouki’s absence from Ennahda’s tenth conference was evident. It has been said that Marzouki’s attendance at the conference would have been hypocritical and that hypocrisy is not party of his character.

Adnan Moncer, the director for Marzouki’s presidential campaign, has recently stated that Ghannouchi has exceeded his time and that he has forgotten many important details. Moncer has also stated that, by contrast, Marzouki will not betray his people and would not make secret agreements behind the backs of his party members. Moncer’s comments are a direct reference to the Paris meetings between Ghannouchi and Essebsi and their secret agreement to cooperative politically.

By contrast, Ennahda has avoided getting into a verbal argument with leaders of the movement, although many factors point to disagreements between the two sides. The blame is being placed on Marzouki for failing to meet the needs of the transitional period when he was president of the republic. Some have even likened his failures to an attempt at a coup led by a troika. At that time, Ghannouchi released a statement in which he clarified that there is insufficient evidence that would confirm such a situation and that the Tunisian army did not deserve such an accusation because it protected the democratic trajectory. Despite the war of words on both sides, it seems that the alliance between the two sides has come to an end, at least at the current stage and for the following reasons:

The differences in evaluating the current situation, as Ennahda believes that efforts should be fortified to ensure the success of the transitional period. This should be done through the cooperation of major parties, regardless of their political backgrounds. By contrast, the Movement views Ennahda’s approach as a chance for a counter-revolution, one that would allow the powers of the former state apparatus to encroach on the aftermath of the revolution and re-assert its influence, which was toppled by the revolution.

Due to various factors, Ennahda found itself the second largest political power in the country after 2014 as a result of a weakened parliament and revolutionary forces. For this reason, Ennahda decided to re-evaluate its political calculations and foreground its presence on the political map in an effort to preserve what it viewed as newly acquired political gains. On the other hand, the Movement believes that Ennahda’s inclusion into politics has weakened the opposition and offered the old regime a new chance at governance and more hegemony by taking advantage of Ennahda’s parliamentary majority.

However deep the conflict between the two sides, the current conflict between the political forces in Tunisia exposed the challenges that are due to take place in the Tunisian political scene in terms of position changes and the formation of alliances between the various powers despite their political affiliations and ideologies. The situation we are witnessing today is not the final picture that things will end on; however, they demonstrate the challenges that will come with electoral transition if voters change their outlooks in Tunisia, which is highly unlikely in any case due to the failures of the government that everyone has seen.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 21 October 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.