Is the Tunisian Revolution Sinking?

Two years after the Tunisian revolution, little has changed and people are angry with the Ennahda-led Islamist government, writes Noureddine Hlaoui.

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nidaa tunis, ennahda party, ennahda

Jan 18, 2013

Day after day, for the two years since the Jan. 14, 2011 revolution, Tunisians have increasingly wondered if the revolution deserved its name.

Two years later, tongues have begun to untie. Revelations and indiscretions have opened up what really happened before, during and after Jan. 14. That's not to mention the major role played by Qatar and by those under its influence.

There is no need to delve into the details of the incidents that surrounded the revolution itself, as history will unforgivingly reveal the detailed truth. Meanwhile, we will try to assess what's happened in the last two exceptional years.

The uprising erupted in the northwest and western governorates of the country, which launched the biggest revolution in Tunisia's history. The Tunisian revolution ultimately toppled the despotic and corrupt regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, along with his family and cronies — and for the better. All Tunisians breathed a sigh of relief, especially in deprived areas, where many naively hoped that the era of poverty, unemployment and neglect had come to an end.

But they suffered the consequences. Their "revolution" has been confiscated by pseudo-revolutionaries, who led the good life in European cities like London and Paris. The Ghannouchis, Marzoukis and Islamists of all stripes were eager to return to Tunisia.

At first, everyone believed this was part of the logic of events, and that Tunisia would be for all Tunisians in the new era of reconstruction.

Forty days after the chaos surrounding Mohamed Ghannouchi and following his resignation, there was a dramatic moment of uncertainty in the country's history. This is when Beji Caid Essebsi had the courage to rise up to the challenge. He managed to gain everyone's support, even from his worst critics.

Indeed, along with a highly skilled team, he managed partly to stabilize the social, economic and security situation. Essebsi also managed day-to-day affairs, including the implementation of school and university examinations, deadlines of Ramadan and the new school year. Most importantly, Essebsi was keen to conduct the first free, independent and neutral elections in the history of Tunisia.

Meanwhile, Islamists kept a low profile and ceded center stage to the so-called left-wing forces and other organizations, which they secretly manipulated until the big day. They tried to take advantage of the democratic forces' strategic errors in order to pose as victims in the eyes of disadvantaged people.

On the D-Day of the elections, the Islamists' machine went into motion in an impressive way. Ennahda had a party representative in every polling station, not to mention other ploys that were hatched in secret. The election results confirmed that their tactics worked.

Since then, Ennahda has turned into a steamroller, trying to crush everything in its path under the guise of legitimacy and an overwhelming majority. Ennahda managed to gain a vast majority through alliances with the Congress for the Republic (CPR) and the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties (Ettakatol), which sought a piece of the pie in the name of national agreement. This explains the bargains that lasted for two months. As expected the Islamist group managed to seize all key positions, leaving crumbs for its two allies that were just for show.

As expected, Rached Ghannouchi chose to stay "above the fray," as a "supreme guide" — but in reality, he was the one pulling all the strings. Suddenly new faces emerged. They nothing to do with the Tunisian reality. Rafik Abdul Salem, Lotfi Zitoun, Houcine Jaziri, Habib Kheder, Sahbi Atig, Abdul Wahab Maater and others took over television channels and radio stations, conceitedly flaunting their triumph.

During the first months after the elections, Ennahda has been full of praise for the nine-month transitional government of Beji Caid Essebsi. But when he made his appeal on Jan. 26, 2012, the tone of the Islamist party had changed and Essebsi became its prime target to eliminate — especially when he established his party Nidaa Tunis.

But one can tell instantly that the troika government's trajectory was riddled with failures, anomalies, too much talking, too little action, diversionary activities and infringements.

Above all, it must be noted that the makeup of the government has been skewed from the very beginning. In other words, the government has been formed with no regard given to actual competencies. It even failed to meet the one-year deadline provided for by the decree governing the elections of Oct. 23, 2011. The government did not pay heed to the country's priorities that led to the "revolution" — namely dignity, employment and regional development.

Fifteen months after the formation of the troika government, Tunisia still has neither a new constitution, nor an independent electoral commission, nor an independent judiciary commission or media commission. No election law, economic development plan or social policies have been proposed.

Instead of a government whose purpose is to manage routine affairs, handle stopgap measures and leave the National Constituent Assembly to deal with the constitution, we have instead a government that is here to stay. It has set long-term strategies which would remain valid until 2020. Members of parliament had their own business while doing business. The government believed itself to be the most powerful government in the history of Tunisia.

The government made us believe that everything was going for the best. The official media has also been pushed to speak its hypocritical language, as used to happen under Ben Ali's rule.

What did Tunisians reap from this "revolution?" The people have been left empty handed. Instead, the government has provided hundreds of millions of dinars to so-called political prisoners, while the majority of Tunisians remain unemployed.

Nevertheless, these prisoners were everything but political: 95% of them are pro-Ennahda Islamists who had never fought the country or for democracy, but for their fundamentalist doctrine, in order to take power for themselves.

It is impossible to enumerate the troika's flops, which have happened in almost every sector. As we celebrate the anniversary of Jan. 14, it is important to be aware where we are heading.

Ennahda hoped to continue down the political path it embarked on almost two years ago on Oct. 23, 2011. However, the emergence of the Nidaa Tounis Party, among other democratic and progressive coalitions, such as the Popular Front, Al-Joumhouri (Republican Party) and Al-Massar (Democratic and Social Path), came to foil the goals of the pro-Ennahda Islamists, who had thought that the next elections would be a repeat of Oct. 23, 2011.

This explains the attempts of Ennahada and CPR to pass unconstitutional and anti-democratic laws in order to exclude Tunisians and deprive them of their most basic rights — for the sole and simple reason that they are afraid of fair competition.

As a result, they employ devious means, relying on a “dictatorship of the majority,” instead of allowing justice to take its course.

In the meantime, things remain unchanged. The cabinet reshuffle, which was declared six months ago, has yet to be implemented. Instead, amateur politicians continue their work through trial and error.

This is the modern, democratic and free Tunisia that Islamists are bending over backwards to stifle and kill.

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