A recent poll conducted in Tunisia reveals that the popularity of the ruling Ennahda party has declined by 31%.
According to the poll, 55% of the population is not satisfied with the overall performance of the government. This comes at a crucial period for the country, during which it will determine its political post-revolution future — the constitutional legitimacy of the National Transitional Council (NTC) expires on October 23.
Tension has been mounting between Ennahda and the opposition, with the former calling for an extension of the NTC’s mandate in order to allow time to decide on some key issues, such as the constitution and the organization of the upcoming elections.
In fact, the opposition holds the movement responsible for neglect and broken promises, accusing it of wanting to stall for time in order to make ministerial adjustments which would serve its electoral interests.
Amid a growing trend in Tunisia of denying the results of opinion polls or discrediting the party that conducts them, Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi — in an interview with Al-Hayat — has acknowledged the decline in his group's popularity.
He said, "This is power. It is known that power is an element of decay, and there is a difference between those who talk about high ideals and those who live up to them. There is a difference between those who are asked to deliver a speech full of jokes and those who are required to provide the people with job opportunities, food, security and medication.”
This was a clear reference to Baji Caid Essebsi, leader of the L’Appel de la Tunisie Movement, the formation of which was announced last week, considered a strong competitor for Ennahda.
Essebsi (Al-Hayat will publish an interview with him on October 2), who commonly tends toward sarcasm, took advantage of the announcement of his new party to make fun of Foreign Minister Rafiq Abdessalem (Ghannouchi's brother-in-law) after he made a mistake and said that the capital of Turkey was Istanbul.
He also joked about the explanation that the interior minister used to justify "the failure of the security plan" to prevent the US embassy attacks. Abdessalem said that the deployment of security forces was made on one side of the embassy only, because "he expected [the attackers] to come from the front side, but they came from the back side.”
Agence Frace-Press quoted Ghannouchi as saying that "Salafists are not only a threat to Ennahda, but threaten freedoms in Tunisia as well." He called for "tightening the grip on them,” which triggered controversy.
However, Ghannouchi denied this, saying that his words were twisted and taken out of context. Some felt that Ghannouchi made this claim in a bid to satisfy everyone.
Asked whether L’Appel de la Tunisie has won the votes lost by Ennahda in the same poll, Ghannouchi said, "The situation is not stable. Some say that L’Appel de la Tunisie received 20% [of the vote]. How can a party that emerged just weeks ago get 20%? This implies that there are ‘remnants’ [of the pre-revolution regime within the movement].
“It implies that there was a dormant or latent power which emerged as soon as the opportunity arose,” Ghannouchi continued. “If so, this means that [L’Appel de la Tunisie] is not new, and that it is the heir to the [Constitutional Democratic] Rally. We believe that the people are conscientious and that they might not be satisfied with Ennahda, and thus resent it, not out of hatred, but out of the fact that they had hoped or imagined that we could do better.
“But on the day of the exam [October 23], people will choose right; they will choose those they put to the test and believed in. As for the RDC, the people know it and will not be deceived by it once again,” he said.