Tunisia at Crossroads After Assassination

Article Summary
Tunisia stands at a crossroads following the assassination of Chokri Belaid, and must decide between the unifying influence of Hamadi Jebali and the divisive influence of Rachid Ghannouchi, writes Noureddine Hlaoui.

Tunisians are still reeling from the assassination of the activist and great political leader of the opposition Chokri Belaid, who was shot on his way to the headquarters of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) to meet with its secretary general and to discuss ways to establish a national debate.

The assassination of Belaid came as a shock. It was so strong that all of the politicians, civil society sectors and citizens believe that things will never go back to the way they were before.

The energetic and quick positions taken by the opposition, which is more united than ever, alongside the spontaneous mobilization of tens of thousands of Tunisians across the country, seem to have convinced Hamadi Jebali, the head of the government, to make decisions that correspond to the severity of the circumstances and the situation. Unfortunately, the Ennahda movement is clinging to power, disregarding the fact that this may tear the country apart.

Thus, on the same day, and shortly after the firm and logical decisions taken by the various democratic parties, Jebali addressed the nation to announce his decision, "which he took independently and without the approval of any political parties," to form a new small government composed of independent and competent technocrats who commit themselves not to run for the upcoming elections to be held as soon as possible.

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Jebali said it will be a government tasked with managing the daily affairs during the remainder of the transitional period.

While the opposition welcomed this initiative and called for additional consultations with the political class, the Ennahda movement, however, rejected it through its spokesman, saying the troika is still capable of running the affairs of the country.

Logically speaking, Jebali, being the head of the government, is the best placed to conclude that his team failed in its mission to lead the country in a safe way during the second transitional stage; a conclusion reached by the different democratic, political and civil society forces on the eve of Oct. 23, 2012.

Many raised their voices to say that electoral legitimacy was over and that we must give way to consensual and functional legitimacy, an approach that had worked well and succeeded in the first provisional phase under the government of Beji Caid Essebsi.

Thus, Jebali seems to have realized — albeit late, as some say — the seriousness of the situation and the need to take exceptional measures under exceptional circumstances, hence the decision he took, away from any complications that might result from compliance with constitutional apparatus.

According to the latest data, the head of the government will receive the support of the democratic bloc in the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), as his Ennahda party continues to intransigently require compliance with the so-called "small constitution" on the provisional organization of powers.

Thus, the Islamist party’s MPs have gone as far as to disgrace Jebali, demanding that the president appoint a new figure from Ennahda, obviously, to form a new government.

Given this new development, several points should be made. Ennahda advocates seem to forget that the constitutional texts have been finalized and voted on by the majority of the Troika, at the time.

They seem to forget that the Constituent Assembly has so far failed to implement any of the missions it has been entrusted with, namely the drafting of the constitution, the establishment of the main authorities (elections, judiciary and information), and the adaptation of a political system and an electoral law.

Ennahda has been clinging to power believing that it can impose illusions on Tunisia in the name of the dictatorship of the majority. The Islamist party appears unaware of the dangers threatening the country, against which all the country’s political parties have been warning. This is especially true for all parties, expect for Ennahda and the Congress for the Republic (CPR), who pretend not to perceive any of these threats.

It seems that for Ennahda, or at least the wing obeying the orders of its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, the assassination of Belaid is insignificant news and things will be back to normal after a few days!

It seems that the Islamist party led by Ghannouchi has forgotten that World War I was triggered by the assassination of a political figure; this is not to mention many civil wars in Lebanon and Algeria among other countries.

Ennahda seems to run headlong into its political trajectory, with its pompous behavior, truly believing that it is the winning majority in Tunisia — a lie it continues to believe despite the spontaneous popular demonstrations against it.

Jebali has finally understood what he must do to unify Tunisians, putting his future with Ennahda at stake. He has proved his ability to rise to the challenges of this exceptional situation and to be a true statesman, which is why he gained the support of the opposition forces and wider civil society.

Ennahda, however, has once again revealed its true colors. It continued to cling to power, taking the bigger share of the pie (to plagiarize Moncef Marzouki’s term).  Indeed, the Islamist party is trying hard to enhance its chances of winning the next election. In fact, Marzouki has been using the presidency mechanisms and inner workings for electoral purposes.

It is imperative that each party assumes the responsibilities of their positions. History will show that Ennahda and Ghannouchi will suffer the consequences of their conceit that threatens to plunge the country into chaos and emptiness.

Jebali has understood this game and therefore acted responsibly. It remains to be seen whether Ghannouchi and his band, and opportunistic government ministers who cling to their seats, will see the light or not.

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Found in: troika government, troika, islamist, ghannouchi
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