Ennahda, Nidaa parties bury hatchet in Tunis

Article Summary
The two main parties in Tunisia, Ennahda and Nidaa Tunis, have been on and off in politics, until recently, when they agreed to get past the disputes and form an alliance.

There's an adage that says, “There’s a thin line between love and hate.” The same thing goes for politics. The Ennahda movement and Nidaa Tunis are two opposite parties that ended up attracted to each other. They have torn each other apart, squabbled and stigmatized each other for months before they finally have this crush. The two big-headed parties on the local political scene have expressed love-hate emotions. Here is an article about a romance that is not talked about often.

The outcome of the elections that were held on Oct. 23, 2011, were surprising. They were not only unpleasant to the people, but to the entire political class as well. The reason is that the Islamist movement, which has become a genuine threat to democracy, heavily participated in the elections. The emergence of a political force strong enough to counter Ennahda and to create a healthy balance became an absolute condition. Thus, Nidaa Tunis was born. It was called the “alternative," implying that the dangers threatening democracy in Tunisia are no longer great.

The story began with a sort of irony. The government of Beji Caid Essebsi handed over authority to the Ennahda movement via the Oct. 23 elections. The Ennahda government (theoretically the Troika government) provided Nidaa Tunis with a visa. Initially, the movement of Rachid Ghannouchi made a miscalculation considering that the party of Essebsi would not last long, that it was new and the remnant of the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD). Ennahda also assumed that Nidaa Tunis did not have a substantial number of members, and did not have a structure enabling it to adopt the path of righteousness, among other arguments. It was a blunder. The Ennahda leader and followers underestimated the genius of Essebsi, until recently when hostilities between the two camps (they grew tired of hiding) officially and clearly arose.

Going back in time allows us to recall a statement made by Lotfi Zitoun, a leading member of Ennahda and former minister counselor in the [Hamadi] Jebali government. Here is the essence of what he said: “As Ghannouchi sees it, Nidaa Tunis is a symbol of the counterrevolution. Yet, a rapprochement with this party is still possible.” This statement was announced in the media on Jan. 5, 2013. Almost a week later, the discourse had taken a completely different turn. Zitoun said, “A rapprochement with Nidaa Tunis is ruled out, as the Ennahda leadership opposes it.” More than a year later, the leading member of the Islamist movement said in the media, “Nidaa Tunis is a big party capable of guaranteeing a democratic alternative and has done a great deal of good for Tunisia, by creating a significant counterweight on the political scene.”

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All one has to do is to observe Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, to determine the ambiguous political strategy used against the rival Nidaa Tunis. What better evidence than Ghanouchi’s famous comment, “Nidaa Tunis is worse than Salafists!”

By using adjectives that were mainly related to the RCD-associated past of members of Essebsi’s movement, Ennahda members got engaged in a war of clans that was likely to prompt the Nidaa Tunis president to make a clear and unequivocal statement in which he declared that he regrets having propelled Ennahda to power when his government held elections on Oct. 23.

Over the months, and following the sporadic events that have severely shaken the country, Nidaa Tunis and Ennahda have come to understand that the rules of the game ought to be revisited, in which case the two parties could aspire to a rather suiting outcome. That is when a most unlikely meeting was surprisingly unveiled. Chief among those who were surprised were the leaders of the two movements. Ghannouchi and Essebsi held a sort of secret meeting in Paris, and the meeting did not take long to produce results: Both parties have calmed down and agreed to achieve a truce, or better yet, to form an alliance. The two parties started complimenting each other, and Ghannouchi declared his willingness to work with the party that was once his sworn enemy.

However, it is crystal clear that the political, security and social situation has changed. All of the most influential parties, namely Ennahda and Nidaa Tunis, have realized that they cannot achieve gains by waging political contractions and engaging in clan warfare. They understood that they should be focusing on political maturity instead if they want to make gains. After all, what is politics good for if not to make gains? Ghannouchi and Essebsi designed and adhered to a configuration that they previously deemed as impossible: sharing power.

In the framework of consensus, which is a new concept integrated in the political sphere, the two adversaries have very clearly chosen to walk hand in hand toward the general interest of the country but, simultaneously, toward the particular interests of each of them. Take a look at the result of the vote on Article 167 on the exclusion of the former RCD members from the next elections, and the picture will become much clearer!

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Found in: zine el abidine ben ali, tunisian elections, rachid ghannouchi, rcd, nidaa tunis, islamism, ennahda, democracy, beji caid essebsi
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