Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement Raises Fears About Election
By: Abdul Rauf Al-Maliki Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab).
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the recent statements made by Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem are the gravest remarks made thus far by an official in the Tunisian transitional government since its formation in late 2011.
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Tunisia's foreign minister said the ruling Ennahda movement would remain in power "for many years to come," stoking public suspicion that the first elections to be held in this country since its revolution may be compromised, writes Abdul Rauf Al-Maliki. Signs that democracy could be sidestepped are increasing.Publisher: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)
Daily Signs of the Abduction of the Tunisian Revolution
Author: Abdul Rauf Al-Maliki
First Published: September 10, 2012
Posted on: September 13 2012
Translated by: Nola Abboud
Categories : Tunisia
Abdessalem affirmed with complete confidence that the Ennahda Movement will continue to be in power for many years to come. Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of the movement, rushed to clarify the statements made by his son-in-law during a press conference held the following day in an attempt to minimize their impact on the public.
Ghannouchi stated that the minister was trying to envisage the future and did not intend to impose control over Tunisians. Ghannouchi’s clarification failed to erode the shock that was felt by Tunisians, who were already concerned over the future of their country. The statements of the minister, or rather his “promise,” are fundamentally linked to the current situation facing Tunisia, which is witnessing tensions that could paralyze the country. These tensions mounted after the “troika” government — as it is referred to by Tunisians — attained power, albeit temporarily.
Abdessalem made these statements during a meeting with leading Ennahda figures in the city of Hammam Sousse, the hometown of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The fact that the statements were made in the hometown of Ben Ali revived bitter memories for many Tunisians. It brought back memories of the tyranny of the Constitutional Democratic Rally (CDR), which ruled the country with the money of the corrupt and the influence of thugs or so-called militias for more than 23 years.
This all took place after the CDR had promised to steer the country toward democracy. A number of analysts said that the minister’s statements echo what his colleagues have been saying behind closed doors.
The country is preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, however the Ennahda Movement has yet to set a specific date for these. This is amid constant calls from other parties, including their allies in the troika, to set an official date for holding elections. It is very unlikely that officials from the movement will postpone the elections in order to prolong the rule of the Constituent Assembly, as this would result in further chaos and increased tensions. Peoples’ concerns about the movement’s domination of power stem from a number of signs and indications that are easy to see.
Doubts over Ennahda’s project
The foreign minister’s statements came at a time when skepticism over the movement’s project has been escalating, not only within opposition circles but also among the movement’s allies. Opponents have explicitly stated that they are afraid that fraudulent elections might take place if Ennahda finds itself forced to return to the ballot boxes. It is the first time that politicians and analysts have used the word “fraud."
This is after the movement’s ministers in the Constituent Assembly continued to put off forming an independent committee to supervise the holding of the upcoming elections. Instead, they dissolved the former committee, which had been praised by parties and observers for its transparency, neutrality and professionalism. It is worth noting that the head of the committee, Kamel Jendoubi, and other committee members are prominent leftist figures. This means that it would be best for the Ennahda Movement to appoint the aforementioned committee to supervise the elections.
This way, if the movement wins once again and people claim that fraud took place, they can respond that the electoral committee is not partial to Ennahda. The fact that there was a delay in naming a new electoral committee — along with the movement’s insistence on playing a main role in the formation of the committee — has resulted in people interpreting the foreign minister’s recent statements as indication that the movement is adamant to stay in power and might even resort to fraud to accomplish that.
Adding insult to injury
Accusations that the Ennahda Movement is planning to rig the elections did not come out of the blue. The peculiar issue is that the statements of the minister — who did not take time to weigh his words or consider their impact on the public — added insult to injury.
The statements were made while the movement was dealing with rifts with its closest ally, the interim Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. During a speech delivered on Marzouki’s behalf at the second general conference of his party, the Congress for the Republic, he accused Ennahda of attempting to control the government, in addition to a number of other charges. These accusations prompted Ennahda ministers to boycott the conference’s opening session.
The accusations that took place during the party’s conference, which was established by Marzouki and other leaders up until he became president, did not come as a surprise. Marzouki made sure that his statements echoed the vast wave of complaints and criticism made by the public — especially the elite — against the Ennahda Movement.
Marzouki is considered to be the person most knowledgeable about his allies, including their ideology, intentions and plans. He considered the move to replace former governors with officials from Ennahda — along with the attempt to appoint members of the movement to preside over temporary committees managing the municipalities, and the comprehensive changes in the local governments and the media sector — as evidence of the movement’s desire to extend its hegemony over the government. This resulted in the opposition condemning the movement’s measure and reiterating its warnings against them.
The leader of the Ennahda Movement, Ghannouchi, attempted to mend the deep rift by differentiating between Marzouki the intellectual — “with whom we differ over many stances and visions” — and Marzouki the president, “whom we cherish and accept as a president to all Tunisians.” However, this did not prevent a wave of harsh criticism that spread throughout Tunisian political circles.
In this context, how can we explain the statements of the foreign minister, who voiced his determination to hold on to power at any cost? We can say that, without a doubt, these statements grant more credibility to Marzouki’s concerns and validate the opposition’s accusations that the Ennahda Movement is trying to fully control the country prior to the elections. This is especially true given that the foreign minister has said that the current government “is the strongest government ever to rule Tunisia.”
The strongest will always survive according to the laws of nature, i.e. there is no need for a referendum to prove the latter. Based on this information, it is reasonable to wonder about the fate of the hijacked revolution and the government that has become a hostage in the hands of those preparing to return to the ballot boxes.
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