After Ennahda president Rashed al-Ghannoushi met the Union’s (UGTT) secretary-general several times to discuss the UGTT-led initiative to resolve the crisis, it agreed to participate in the national dialogue. The dialogue is meant to include all political parties and come to an agreement on how to solve the current crisis.

The UGTT mentioned yesterday on their facebook that Ennahda agreed to their inititiave. Ennahda president Rashed al-Ghannoushi also released a press release stating Ennahda agreed to participate in the initiative led by the UGTT.TUNISIA-POLITIQUE-UNREST                                            Left Ennahda president Ghannoushi, right UGTT secretary-general Abbassi

On (Tunisian) Hannibal TV the latest news was discussed last night by a panel composed of politicians from both the opposition and government on how to interpret the latest news. Opposition politicians interpreted it as “Ennahda also agreeing with the Union’s stance that the current government will have to be replaced by a national unity government made up of independent candidates”. Nevertheless, the pro-government politician made clear that that is not what Ghannoushi said and therefore mere conjunction, he pointed out that Ennahda agrees to the initiative “for all parties to sit together and try to come to an agreement on how to solve the crisis”. Although an earlier statement of a member of the UGTT did actually state that Ennahda “agreed to a technocratic government”, Ennahda’s statement itself mentions that it will participate in the national dialogue “as a starting point for dialogue and the current government would remain until an agreement was reached”. Ennahda is known to demand the Prime-Minister to stay the same, meaning Ali Laareyedh (Ennahda) will continue his work, respecting the “ballot box” and “legitimacy of the government”.

Ennahda agreed to participate, and the opposition?Rahil-Tunisia-300x150

Rahil-campaign (leave) by the Popular Front, starting Saturday with a demonstration in front of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA).

Ennahda won previous constituent essambly elections with approximately 37% of the votes and is leading the current government coalition. It is not hard to understand the importance of the latest news that it will participate in the UGTT’s-led initiative considering the fact it is the country’s leading political party at the moment. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen which opposition parties will also agree to participate. Many of them have demanded that the current government and parliament should first be dissolved before entering into any talks to solve the country’s crisis. Among the parties that demanded this was Call of Tunisia (Nidaa Tounes) and the Popular Front (leftist/socialist alliance), which also started a “Rahil-campaign” (leave) to demand apart from the government’s and parliament’s dissolution also the replacement of governors and public officials appointed by the current government. Arguing their appointments reflect “political favoritism”. It remains to be seen whether – previously mentioned – opposition parties decide to participate in the dialogue or continue insisting that the current government should be dissolved first. Although both opposition parties are supposed to be in an (temporary) alliance in their demand for the government and parliament to be dissolved it seems rather fragile. Call of Tunisia president al-Sebsi has met Ennahda-president Ghannoushi last week in France, which has led to increasing fears among Popular Front politicians that Call of Tunisia might strike a deal with Ennahda, which is tantamount to leaving their temporary alliance with the Popular Front. Although al-Sebsi has reiterated he is committed to the demands of the alliance fears among Popular Front members have not be taken away. It is important to understand that this alliance is merely a political strategy. The Popular Front is strongly opposed to former regime remnants whereas Call of Tunisia is known to have some well-known former regime ministers and supporters among its ranks.

Just a small reminder of events that happened last week, before Ennahda agreed yesterday to participate in the national dialogue:

– UGTT has talked to all political parties about their demands and the national dialogue to come to a common understanding on how to solve the current crisis. The topics at stake are two-fold; 1) what to do with the current government, 2) what to do with the constituent assembly tasked with writing a new constitution, which has almost been completed

– Ennahda insisted from the beginning that national dialogue should be started without any preconditions, whereas some opposition parties insisted for the government (and parliament) to be dissolved before starting any national dialogue

– UGTT’s official position is that the government should be replaced by an independent one, composed of independent ministers who will prepare – and themselves not be electable in – next’s elections

– UGTT has stated that some demands of the Popular Front (leftist/socialist alliance) are “a burden to come to a common agreement in solving the crisis”. The Popular Front demands apart from dissolving the government and constituent assembly also that mayor’s appointed by the current government have to be replaced for example

– UGTT’s secretary general Abbassi has met Ennahda’s president Ghannoushi three times before Ennnahda agreed to take part in the national dialogue

– Ennahda enters the national dialogue with it’s current stance that any future government should be headed by its current Prime-Minister (Ali Laareyedh, Ennahda) to respect the ballot box and government’s legitimacy

– Ennahda-president Rashed al-Ghannoushi met – what is considered to be – the main opposition party leader of Call of Tunisia (Nidaa Tounes) Beji Caid al-Sebsi Thursday (15 August) in Paris. Though both parties have downplayed the importance of the meeting and tried to present it as “drinking a coffee together and getting familiar with each other”, the importance cant be denied. Ghannoushi has said on several previous occasions that he would not “deal with former regime remnants”, when asked about Call of Tunisia. Whereas Call of Tunisia is known to be from the beginning staunch anti-Nahda. As far as press releases concerned nothing has been agreed upon in that meeting. Although well-known Nidaa Tounes politician (and a former minister under one of Ben Ali’s governments) Lazhar Akrami confirmed rumours that Ennahda proposed al-Sebsi the presidency, which if true was not accepted.

Afterr Ennahda’s decision to participate in the national dialogue initiative led by the UGTT, it is now the opposition parties who will have to take the shot. It remains to be seen what their final response is and whether they will participate in it or not.