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Tunisia: Ennahda resignations 'not leading to a new party'

Samir Dilou, a leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement (C) in Tunis on 17 September 2019 [FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images]

The senior members of the Ennahda movement in Tunisia who have resigned from the party have told Arabi21 why they made the move. More than a hundred members resigned at the weekend. A joint statement said that they did so because "The wrong political choices of the leadership have led to its isolation and failure to engage in any common front to resist the imminent authoritarian danger represented by the [announcement by President Kais Saied last week that he will rule by decree]."

They added that "The disruption of the movement's internal democracy and the unilateral decision-making by a group of those loyal to its leaders have resulted in wrong decisions and choices that led to political alliances that have no logic or benefit and contradict the pledges made to voters."

Those who have resigned from Ennahda deny that they intend to establish a new party. "It is, rather, a basis for liberation and engagement in a struggle to resist President Kais Saied's coup and his tyranny."

According to Amal Azzouz, "The reasons for resigning from the Ennahda movement are numerous, most importantly the failure of all reform attempts within the movement. We acknowledge this failure. We did not succeed in making reforms within Ennahda. We struggled against the disruption of democracy in the movement, the marginalisation of institutions, and the centralisation and exclusivity of decision-making." She made her comment in an exclusive statement to Arabi21.

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"For us, everything that happened is now in the past. Those who remained may continue to struggle for reform within the movement, but we are no longer interested in that. We are looking into the future. There is another reason, which is the movement's wrong choices and policies. The current leadership has led the party into real isolation." She added that a "political earthquake" took place on 25 July, when Saied imposed "emergency measures" on Tunisia. "This requires engaging in a common national front to resist the real tyrannical danger that the president represents."

She brushed aside concerns about the timing of the resignations and the pressure that it could put on Ennahda. "What matters to us now is not Ennahda. The relationship has been cut. We made great efforts for reform, but this stage is difficult and dangerous. Today we are liberated from all constraints."

Former minister Samir Dilo explained that the resignations were submitted basically because of the "impossibility" of internal reform as a result of the disruption of institutions and the fact that [Rached] Ghannouchi and his entourage make decisions "in isolation" and not consultation. "The isolation of the Ennahda leadership in the political and civil scene is a result of its policies that created the appropriate conditions for resentment against the scene prior to 25 July. The popular welcome for turning the page, which was led by Ennahda, is perhaps evidence of its responsibility in part for the complete departure from constitutional legitimacy with last week's decisions by Saied."

Is Tunisia's state of emergency being used to restrict freedoms? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Is Tunisia's state of emergency being used to restrict freedoms? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Legal specialists view the president's latest move as the abolition of the Tunisian Constitution and a complete seizure of executive and legislative powers, thus introducing a presidential rather than a parliamentary system.

Azzouz suggested that more people may resign from Ennahda, but reiterated that the intention is not to form a new party. She confirmed that party leader Belkacem Hassan has not contacted any of those members who have resigned.

Dilo agreed that the list of people resigning may be updated. "But we are not trying to incite others to resign." He stressed that those who have left Ennahda have a shared history of seeking reform of the movement. "What follows depends on the ongoing discussions between who resigned and others. Whatever it is, it will not complement Ennahda, clone it or compete with it."

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