Some parties surprised everyone with their good results in the latest Tunisian legislative elections, even if the extent of this surprise varied between one party and the other. These parties are the Popular Front, the Free Patriotic Union, Afek Tunis and Mohamed Abbou’s Attayar, in a slightly lower position. They will be the arbitrators during the next National Assembly in the duel between Ennahda and Nidaa Tunis. Find below an interpretation of the different electoral results registered by these parties.
A recent Facebook status noted that Tunisia is the only country in the world where a voter may hesitate between [political parties] like Afek Tunis and the Popular Front. However, there is some truth in this sarcastic remark. Indeed, if we analyze the election campaign of both parties, we quickly notice a decisive common point.
These parties have favored fieldwork over repeated and unproductive media appearances. Speaking of campaigns, we might as well praise the originality and dynamism of the digital campaign (on social networks) of Afek Tunis, which did hesitate to gather its key leaders around a song. Another common point between Afek Tunis and the Popular Front is that both parties have allocated a central place in their discourses to political proposals and [electoral] programs.
Certainly, there are fundamental differences between the two programs, but it is clear that the Tunisians were not insensitive to this constructive discourse. With 15 seats, the Popular Front may consider this electoral result a great victory. In addition to the program and the attitude during the campaign, Tunisians have not forgotten the front’s martyrs: Chokri Belaid, Mohamed Brahmi and Mohamed Belmofti.
Afek Tunis, meanwhile, achieved its [best] performance by doubling its number of seats compared to 2011. This is a party has a clearly defined ideology and way of thinking and compensated for being young and lacking experience by continuous work on its electoral campaign. It is likely that those who voted for Afek Tunis are the reservoir voters of parties like Al-Joumhouri, the Democratic Alliance or the Union for Tunisia.
Thus, Afek Tunis and Popular Front could play arbitrators during the discussions of the next National Assembly. Their weight in terms of seats will ensure that they will be courted by the two great powers of the city of Le Bardo, Nidaa Tunis and Ennahda. According to some rumors, the negotiations have already begun and analysts have started dissecting the possible scenarios.
However, there is another party among these winners, whose win is very much inexplicable: the Free Patriotic Union (UPL). Slim Riahi, the controversial businessman and president of the Club Africain is the founder and leader of the UPL. Despite lacking a specific and detailed program and being new on the political scene, the UPL manage to run neck and neck with the Popular Front. It is quite possible that other levers were used to attract this number of votes. In all cases, the UPL is now a significant component of the National Assembly. Nevertheless, rumor predicts that it will be subject to a political isolation similar to that witnessed by Al-Aridha Echaabiya, which means Popular Petition, after the 2011 elections. Although it was the second power in the country after Ennahda in 2011, the party of Hachmi Hamdi was shunned and its MPs only served to put on a show in the assembly and as mascots in TV shows. According to other opinions, the party of Slim Riahi could become an ally of choice for one of the two assembly giants, even if this seems unlikely.
A fourth party also surprised everyone by registering a satisfactory score: Attayar Addimocrati (Attayar) founded by Mohamed Abbou, the secretary-general of the Congress for the Republic (CPR). If we take into account the baggage of Mohamed Abbou and the recent emergence of his party, gaining five seats is a good performance. It should also be noted that Attayar provided a haven for those disappointed with the CPR. Ideologically close, if not identical, the CPR and Attayar target the same electorate. The difference between the two is made in terms of achievements and failures. Attayar enjoys the benefit of the doubt compared to the CPR, with a disastrous record that failed to fulfill any electoral promises.
However, some drifts and ramblings could end up being decisive for Attayar. For example, Samia Abbou, head of Attayar’s list in the first electoral district of Tunis and member of the next assembly, revealed to Jawhara FM on Oct. 29 that the practices of Nidaa Tunis during the elections recalled those of the Constitutional Democratic Rally, adding that voting for Nidaa Tunis in these elections was a sanction for Tunisia and not for Ennahda. Abbou went on in her discourse calling for exclusion by taking upon herself the role of the guardian against the return of the old regime. It would be better for Attayar to control such aberrations, of which Samia Abbou is a fan, if it wants to continue its growth.
The elections clearly showed that Tunisians were no longer susceptible to the nervous and vengeful discourse of this type of revolutionary. Moreover, back to the case of Samia Abbou, we recall that for a long period of time she sought refuge behind her parliamentary immunity to avoid appearing before the courts. So the discourse calling for struggle, application of the law and transparency would surely deserve more consistency on the part of those who have made it their key cause.
Afek Tunis, the Popular Front, the UPL, and, to a lesser extent, Attayar, could play a decisive role in the next National Assembly. They may, by choice, actively participate in the stabilization of the country or [on the contrary] play a disruptive or harmful role. Even if we are almost certain of the attitude to be adopted by two of them, the mystery remains unsolved for the other two.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly