Ennahda Denies Responsibility for Tunisia's Political Crisis

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Continually sinking in popularity, the ruling Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia has been keen to point out that it is not solely responsible for the country’s current plight.

The ruling Islamist Ennahda movement in Tunisia renewed its acceptance of the initiative of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) — the largest labor organization in the country — for overcoming the political crisis witnessed by the country for two months now. Ennahda took this position two days after the news conference held by the social organizations sponsoring the national dialogue — the UGTT, the Trade and Handicrafts Union (UTICA), the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) and the National Bar Association — during which the ruling troika was blamed for the failure of consultations.

According to UGTT leader Hassine Abbasi, “Ennahda’s position regarding the road map proposed by the quartet sponsoring the national dialogue is unclear and ambiguous and lacks a clear will to proceed with national dialogue. Moreover, this position doesn’t express the movement’s opinion regarding the roadmap and does not expressly indicate acceptance of the resignation of the government and the formation of a technocrat-led government.”

The general coordinator for Ennahda, Abdel Hamid Jelassi, asserted in a news conference on Sept. 23, 2013, that his movement is committed to the dialogue and consultations held under the auspices of the quartet sponsoring the national dialogue. “Ennahda made many concessions in the consultations, the most important of which is its acceptance to form an impartial technocrat-led government instead of the government headed by the Islamist leader Ali Laarayedh,” Jelassi said.

Jelassi requested the social organizations sponsoring the dialogue to remain impartial toward all political parties, stressing that his movement's position is in line with the position of the National Salvation Front. “We bear part of the responsibility, but we refuse to be held fully responsible for the crisis experienced by the country,” Jellassi said. “The country may head towards elections within four months if the political parties reach a solution to the current crisis,” asserted Jelassi, calling on all parties to resume dialogue as soon as possible in order to spare the country further political and economic crises.

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In this context, the former foreign minister and member of the Ennahda Executive Office, Rafiq Abdul Salam, presented his movement’s perception of the solution for the crisis. He said the solution would be based on ratifying the constitution governing political and legislative life and safeguarding the Constituent Assembly, which expresses popular will, as well as on forming a new government headed by an independent national figure after securing the constituent missions related to the constitution, the electoral law and the Independent High Authority for the Elections. “A clear date must be set for the elections after the formation of a technocrat-led government to complete the remaining transitional period,” added Abdul Salam.

It is worth mentioning that the road map proposed by the organizations sponsoring the national dialogue includes the acceptance of the formation of a technocrat-led government — headed by an independent national figure, whose members could not run as candidates for the upcoming elections and who would enjoy full powers to conduct the country’s affairs — to replace the current government which must resign. Furthermore, the initiative stressed the need to agree on an independent national figure to act as prime minister within a one week time-limit as of the starting date of the dialogue and to complete the formation of an independent technocrat-led government within two weeks at most.

On the other hand, the administrative commission of the UGTT (the highest authority in the union) announced in a statement on Sept. 23, 2013, that the quartet will continue its coordination and that the commission will hold open meetings to follow up on developments and take appropriate decisions. The commission also announced a huge peaceful national rally to express the union's insistence on implementing the quartet initiative and holding all forms of civil and peaceful protests in all sectors and provinces.

According to observers, the statements issued by Ennahda leaders on Sept. 23 are quite similar to those issued on Sept. 19, which included acceptance of the initiative launched by the organizations sponsoring the dialogue. They also indicated that Ennahda wants to clarify its position and confirm that it is not different from that of the opposition National Salvation Front, implying that there are parties who want to blame it for the failure of consultations.

On a different note, opposition movement Nidaa Tounes requested that the UGTT initiative include changing the president of the republic, since he is part of the political crisis afflicting the country. This means that consultations will get more complicated in the coming period if a new item is added. Observers expect Nidaa Tounes head Beji Caid Essebsi, the most prominent rival of Ennahda, to assume the presidency for the remaining term of the transitional period.

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