Last Saturday evening Ennahda had organized a “one million march” in al-Kasba, Tunis, in support of the legitimacy of the government and national unity, as can be read in the picture above. From all over the countries people came to al-Kasba in support of the government. As organized as Ennahda is they started at the beginning of the week with many online video’s inviting people to join them and on Saturday many busses of Nahda supporters came from far to bring the supporters to al-Kasba square. A video of the demonstration can be seen here.
So what has been said at the “one million march”? And what did the president of Ennahda Rashed al-Ghannoushi say in his speech? As can be heard in the video many slogans had to do with emphasizing the legitimacy of the current government, led by Ennahda. Some examples of slogans that can be heard at the start of the video are: “national unity is an obligation”, “a state where the rule of law is respected is an obligation”, “democracy is an obligation”, “being against a coup (refering to Egypt) is an obligation”, “the law in-the-making forbidden anyone who has been a minister under Ben Ali to be involved in politics for the next five years is an obligation”. Amid increased polarization between government and opposition supporters Ennahda feels pressured to emphasize that their government coalition has come into power after free and fair elections. As I mentioned before in a previous post the Egyptian crisis after Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi was ousted by the army (a coup) had a direct effect on Tunisian politics. Secondly, Ennahda is one of the parties that try to push getting a law through parliament (called qanoun tahsin al-thawra) that forbids anyone who hold an official position under any of Ben Ali’s previous governments to be involved in Tunisian politics for the next five years. That is why this law is called in Arabic “the law in perfection of the revolution”. It should be mentioned here that Ennahda is not the only party pushing this law, so are CPR (secular centre-left), al-Wafaa (secular-liberal) and some others parties in the opposition. In practice this would mean that a number of prominent members of the opposition party Call of Tunisia (Nidaa Tounes) would be barred from Tunisian politics because they have served as a minister under Ben Ali. One of them would be 80-year old Beji Caid as-Sebsi, founded and heads the party, who is considered to be the last living example of Bourguibism due to having been a trustee of Habib Bourguiba, the first president of the Tunisian Republic after the independance from France. He served a long time as an advisor, ambassador and Foreign Minister under Bourguiba’s reign. After Ben Ali got into power he served for a short while as a minister and resigned later on because “the will was lacking for a transition to a real democracy”. The Call of Tunisia was formed after the previous elections and because of what they consider to be “a worrying time now the country is in the hands of Ennahda”. The party is Bourguibist in its outlook and very anti-Nahda. It also has other prominent figures who used to be part of Ben Ali’s RCD party or served previously as a minister in one of his governments.
Back to Ennahda’s show of strength last Saturday, what did Rashed al-Ghannoushi (founder and president) actually? He said many things and held a speech for about half a hour. The most important thing however related to the current crisis in Tunisia is quite interesting to get an insight into the question how Ennahda thinks is best to come to a solution. As has become clear now Ennahda emphasizes the legitimacy of the government.
Rashed al-Ghannoushi threw in a retorical question: “Is Ennahda emphasizing the legitimacy of the government only because it is leading it itself?”. Explaining that if Tunisia wants to be a democracy the elections and results of it should be respected. Furthermore he mentioned explicitly that Ennahda’s red line is the dissolvement of the parliament because he considers it a direct attack on the free and fair elections that have taken place after revolution. An argument for this stance is that the previous elections were actually parliamentarian elections out of which a coalition with a majority in parliament was formed; the current government. Ghannoushi “reached out” to the opposition saying that concerning the current government Ennahda is open to all negotiations, but the post of prime-minister should be kept to Ali Laareydh (Ennahda). Explaining that he would have the same opinion if “it he was not a prime-minister from Ennahda”, because he (the prime-minister) is – in his words – the legitimacy after free and fair elections in which the people have chosen their representatives. Any other position in the government is open to negotiation according to Ghannoushi. The leader of Ennahda seems persistent in his belief that the current crisis “is a victory for democracy”.
Summarizing, Ennahda is open for a (rigorous) reshuffle of the current government and willing to give posts away to politicians of opposition parties or independent candidates. As long as the current (Ennahda) prime-minister continues to lead the government, arguing that that is the legitimacy that should be respected to uphold democracy in Tunisia. Whether one wants to call the future (new) government after a major reshuffle a “national salvation government” (as many of the opposition demand) or not could be a difference in semantics. Although a part of the opposition will have a hard time to come to terms with the idea that the Nahdaoui (Ennahda) prime-minister Ali Laareydh will continue to head a future government. Important to mention is that when Chokri Belaid was assassinated last February the same kind of crisis took place. After negotiatons, demonstrations and many demands by the opposition the government chose also for a cabinet reshuffle and offered among others the Republican Party (important opposition party that is in an alliance with Call of Tunisia) some ministry posts. In the end final negotiations failed, the Republican Party never joined the government and instead of that some independent candidates got important positions such as the current Minister of Internal Affairs Lotfi Ben Jeddou.