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November 14, 2013 No.
1035

Political Crisis in Tunisia

Introduction

Tunisia is undergoing a political and economic crisis. In the words of the Tunisian economist Dr. Hedi Sraieb, "the Constituent [Assembly] is at a standstill [and] the government is in deadlock... Without a truly political solution, in other words, a compromise, the country risks coming closer and closer to falling into an infernal spiral of uncontrollable violence."[1] Since the July 25, 2013 assassination of MP Mohamed Brahmi, founder and former leader of the left-wing People's Movement, Tunisian political life has been paralyzed, and no compromise is in sight.

The Tunisian opposition's suggestion for ending the crisis is to end the government led by Prime Minister Ali Larayedh. This is not the first time that the Tunisian opposition has demanded the end of the government and of the ruling Troika coalition comprising the Islamist party El-Nahdha, the Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), and Ettakatol; it made same demand previously, in February 2013. Following the assassination that month of Tunisian political leader Chokri Belaid,[2] the government was compelled to resign. However, neither El-Nahdha nor the other parties of the Troika relinquished power.

On October 5, 2013, Tunisia's ruling Islamist party El-Nahdha and the opposition signed a roadmap for emerging from the crisis; the roadmap was sponsored by four civil society organizations and stipulated the creation of a government of independent technocrats within three weeks, following the launch of dialogue with opposition parties. However, while El-Nahdha and Ettakatol signed the agreement, the CPR, which was co-founded by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, declined to sign at that time.

October 23, 2013 marked two years exactly since the first free elections in Tunisia, and since the Troika, which was supposed to form a transitional government, came to power. Its remaining in power beyond this date is considered by the opposition to be illegal. Earlier this month, the national dialogue, launched after the signing of the roadmap, was declared a failure.

The following is an analysis of the current political crisis in Tunisia and what led to the failure of the national dialogue, at a time when Tunisia is also being targeted by jihadi violence. On October 30, 2013, the Tunisian cities of Sousse and Monastir were targeted by two suicide bombers on the same day. As reported by Al-Arabiya.net,[3] a 22-year old Tunisian blew himself up outside a four-star hotel at the coastal resort of Sousse, about 140 kilometers from Tunis, and an 18-year-old young Tunisian was caught trying to detonate a conspicuous suicide-bomb vest at the mausoleum of the first Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba, known for his secular views, in the seaside city of Monastir, about 25 kilometers from Sousse. In late July 2013, Tunisian President Marzouki announced three days of mourning for eight soldiers killed by jihadi militants in an ambush near the Algerian border, in what appeared to be one of the biggest attacks on the country's security forces in decades.

The Killing Of MP Mohamed Brahmi

The July 25, 2013 assassination of MP Mohamed Brahmi, the third political assassination in the country, followed those of Belaid Chokri on February 6, 2013, and of Lofti Nagued, coordinator of the secular Nidaa Tounes party, in October 2012.[4] Brahmi, 58, leader of the nationalist Movement of the People party, was, according to media reports, killed in his car in front of his wife and daughter, by gunmen on a motorcycle. As would happen later in the subsequent assassination of Belaid, the opposition accused El-Nahdha of being politically responsible for Brahmi's assassination.

Soon after Belaid's assassination, the Tunisian media outlet Kapitalis[5] published a lengthy op-ed, penned by Tunisian journalist Rachid Barnat, stating that the political responsibility for the assassination rests with the ruling troika, which is accused of having done nothing to stop the rise of Islamism in the country. The editorial also argued that the government had long since lost its political and moral legitimacy, since it was supposed to be transitional, formed with the aim of drawing up the Tunisian constitution in the aftermath of the revolution. The mandate of this government, he said, expired on October 23, 2012, a year after the election, and its extension makes it illegitimate.

In addition, attorney Taieb Laaguili, member of the provisional committee to reveal the truth behind the assassination of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi (Initiative pour la Recherche de la Vérité sur l'Assassinat de Chokri Belaïd et de Mohamed Brahmi, IRVA), accused Tunisia's Interior Ministry and El-Nahdha members of complicity in political murders. Laaguili also stated that the CIA had warned on July 11 of the possibility of an assassination attempt against Brahmi, but that nothing had been done to protect him.[6] In response, Mustapha Ben Amor, then-public security director in the Interior Ministry, said that Laaguili had been "manipulated."[7]

Following Belaid's killing, Tunisian secular civil society took to the streets, demanding that the government resign. On February 19, prime minister Hamadi Jebali, of El-Nahdha, did resign, after he failed to form a non-partisan government to end a political crisis that was exacerbated by the assassination. However, the formation of an independent government did not follow.

Three days later, on February 22, President Moncef Marzouki asked the newly nominated Prime Minister Ali Larayedh to form a government. At the time of his appointment, Larayedh was interior minister in Jebali's government. After winning parliament's approval for his new government, Larayedh formally took office on March 14, 2013.

Larayedh's appointment as prime minister was not welcomed by the secular and liberal opposition. In a communiqué, the Popular Front, a leftist coalition of opposition groups of which Belaid had been a member, stated that Larayedh was one of the political figures bearing political responsibility for Belaid's assassination.[8]

On August 6, 2013, soon after Brahmi's assassination, the opposition once again asked the Troika to resign. National Constituent Assembly (ANC) speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar ordered the ANC, the body tasked with drafting its new constitution, to suspend its work until a consensual solution emerged. On September 10, the ANC resumed work, setting the schedule for commission meetings and the plenary session.[9] However, some 60 opposition members of the ANC continued with the suspension of work. Mass demonstrations and sit-ins have been held in Tunis at Bardo Square in front of the ANC demanding the ouster of the government.


Tunisian politician Mohamed Brahmi, assassinated in Tunis outside his home in front of his wife and children by two gunmen on a motorcycle (source: directinfo.webmanagercenter.com. July 25, 2013).


Graffiti of assassinated political leader Chokri Belaid, assassinated in February 2013, with "We Will Avenge" underneath. Photo by Nadia Ayari, Tunis, Tunisia, 2013 (source: creativetimereports.org, September 16, 2013)


Assassinated Tunisian politician Lotfi Nagued (image: Tunisia Times, Tunisia, November 16, 2012)

A Roadmap to Solve The Crisis

On September 17, 2013, the four main civil society organizations (also called the Quartet) – the Tunisian General Union of Workers (UGTT); the Tunisian Industry, Trade and Handicrafts Union (Utica); the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LTDH); and the Bar Association – presented to the various parties a roadmap aimed at democratically ending the Troika that had held power since the October 2011 elections.

As a precondition for launching a national dialogue, the four organizations suggested that Ali Larayedh's government resign within three weeks; that it be replaced by a small team of skilled technocrats; and that the ANC fully return to work. The team of independent technocrats would be tasked with forming a new government; the ANC to supervise the creation of an independent elections authority and the preparation of a new electoral law within 15 days. The roadmap is aimed at ending the transitional process by establishing a timetable for presidential and legislative elections.

El-Nahdha announced its acceptance of the Quartet's initiative, and called for "urgently beginning a serious national dialogue" to overcome the current crisis and move forward "on the path of achieving the objectives of the Revolution." In a statement[10] posted on its official website and signed by its leader Rached Ghannouchi, it stressed its "unconditional readiness for an immediate start of national dialogue to reach broad consensus on all critical issues."[11] The statement called for "adopting the new constitution as the objective and foundation of the constitutional phase, as soon as possible and within three weeks from the beginning of dialogue," and then "setting a definite date for elections, which should be held within six months of the establishment of the electoral commission" and finally "agreeing on the head, composition and program of the new government."

The Opposition's Initial Doubts About El-Nahdha's Acceptance Of the Roadmap

On September 28, 2013, the Quartet stated that El-Nahdha had expressed its acceptance of the roadmap and its readiness to implement its content. However, in previous statements at a press conference, Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) secretary-general Hassine Abassi said: "The El-Nahdha Party has partially accepted the roadmap offered by the Quartet for the period to come, and has not totally and clearly committed to the different points of this initiative." Abassi also indicated that the El-Nahdha party's response to the Quartet initiative remained "ambiguous," particularly with regard to acceptance of the resignation of the government under the prescribed terms. Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA) president Wided Bouchamaoui stressed that the political crisis must be ended, as it is "causing the deterioration of the economic situation." He noted, "This stifling crisis has pushed many foreign companies to leave Tunisia, causing a fall in investment and a rise in unemployment."

The opposition political coalition Union for Tunisia (UPT) disapproved of El-Nahdha's positions, branding them "unclear" and saying that the party used "double language" vis-à-vis the Quartet roadmap. However, the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat[12] reported that the head of the secular Nidaa Tounes party, former PM Beji Caid El-Sebsi, had expressed optimism over the launch of the dialogue, but had voiced concerns that the dialogue would be delayed due to El-Nahdha's hesitation in accepting the stipulation that the government resign. Nevertheless, in an interview with Al-Arabiya in September,[13] El-Sebsi mentioned that not only should the government resign, but also that President Moncef Marzouki should step down. He stated that having an independent government would be useless if President Marzouki remained in power, because he is part of the executive authority that assumed power after the October 23, 2011 elections, and he too must go when the current Islamist-led government leaves. This, he said, is especially necessary because the El-Nahdha party and its partners will still lead in parliament.

In addition, the opposition media has been very critical of El-Nahdha. According to Noureddine Hlaoui, editor in chief of the Tunisian media outlet Business News, "El-Nahdha and company [i.e. the Troika] are very much attached to their seats, and act like they are going to remain in power forever. They continue to vote on bills and to talk about long-term programs and strategies – while they are in the final stage of the transitional period and should be restricting themselves to current affairs and focusing their efforts on the electoral process. Worse still, El-Nahdha continues to make dozens and dozens of appointments to key posts of the Tunisian administration, despite the fact that all the democrats are calling not [just] for a stop to current nominations but for a reexamination of the thousands already made."

El-Nahdha Transport Minister: "The Government Will Not Resign Before The Finalization Of The Constitution"

For his part, El-Nahdha party coordinator Abdelhamid Jelassi asserted that his party had opted "for consensus and for the completion of the transition process in the shortest possible term, but refuses to jeopardize the future of the country by leading it into a vacuum and leaving it to move towards the unknown."

El-Nahdha executive bureau member Rafik Abdessalem underlined "the need to... maintain the ANC, promulgate the Constitution, [and] set a clear date for the elections. Then, once these tasks are carried out, [there is a need to] form a government based on skills and presided over by an independent figure..."

Ajmi Lourimi, another El-Nahdha executive bureau member, said that "there will be no other framework for the political process except the institutions." He stressed that "removing power from an elected stakeholder to hand it to another unelected party is not part of the practices of democratic life."

On September 29, 2013, Abdelkerim Harouni, Tunisian Transport Minister and member of El-Nahdha's Shura Council, spoke to members of the Front of National Salvation (FSN), which includes the Union for Tunisia and Popular Front coalitions and civil society organizations. He said that "the government [led by Ali Larayedh] will not resign before the finalization of the constitution, and not before setting a date for [new] elections." He also said, "There is a mission that God assigned to us, and He ordered to give [our mandate] back only to those who gave it to us, and this is a divine order which stands above the constitution and above the law," adding, "God willing, we will give back our mandate only to those who mandated us and we will leave the power with which our people entrusted us only to those accepted by our people."

The Signing Of The Roadmap

Despite all doubts, on October 5, 2013, El-Nahdha and the opposition signed a roadmap for the creation of a government of technocrats within three weeks of the launch of dialogue with opposition parties. As mentioned, the opposition is demanding the resignation of PM Ali Larayedh and its government.

The leaders of 21 parties, including El-Nahdha and Ettakatol, signed the roadmap initiated by the Quartet sponsoring dialogue after a slight modification of the original text. However, three of the parties have refused to sign the document – the CPR, a Troika member; the Reform and Development Party; and the Al-Mahaba Movement.

The following is the text of the roadmap, as reported by the media outlet Kapitalis,[14] launched on September 17, 2013; it stipulates the engagement of various actors in national dialogue, the completion of the work of the ANC and the creation of a new government comprising independent technocrats.

"The ANC's Completion Of Its Work

"- Resumption of the work in order to complete examination of the issues listed below within a period of no longer than four weeks, starting from the date of the first session of the national dialogue.

"- Selection of the members of the independent authority for the elections (ISIE) and creation of this body within one week.

"- Formulation and approval of the electoral code within two weeks.

"- Drafting a schedule that sets the date of next elections within two weeks of the date of installation of the ISIE.

"- Approval of a new constitution within four weeks at most, resorting to a committee of experts in order to speed up this operation.

"Formation Of The New Government

"- In parallel with the ANC's resumption of work, consultations for the selection of an independent national figure tasked with forming a new government should begin; the name [of the selected person] should be announced within one week.

"- The consultations carried out by this figure should lead to the formation of a new government within two weeks at most.

"- The present government must unconditionally resign within at most three weeks from the date of the first session of the national dialogue.

"- The formation of the new government must be approved by the ANC.

"National Dialogue

"- Political actors must be engaged in the pursuance of the national dialogue fostered by the Quartet in order to reach a consensus meant to overcome the differences which are hindering the completion and the success of the transitional period."

The following are the signatories to the roadmap:

  1. El-Nahdha Movement: Rached Ghannouchi
  2. Ettakatol: Mouldi Riahi
  3. Workers' Party: Hamma Hammami
  4. Nidaa Tounes Movement: Beji Caid El-Sebsi
  5. Movement of Socialist Democrats (MDS): Ahmed Khaskhoussi
  6. Movement for the Republic Party: Chokri Balti
  7. Democratic and Social Path Party (Al-Massar): Samir Taieb
  8. Unified Democratic Patriots Party: Zied Lakhdar
  9. Al-Amen Party: Lazhar Bali.
  10. People's Movement: Zouheir Hamdi
  11. Republican Party: Maya Jribi
  12. Al-Moubadara Party: Kamel Morjane
  13. Tunisian National Front Party: Chaker Aoudi
  14. Maghreb Republican Party: Mohamed Boussairi Bouebdelli
  15. People's Party: Hichem Hosni
  16. Third Path Party: Salah Choueib
  17. National Free Union Party: Mohsen Hassen
  18. Democratic Alliance: Mohamed Hamdi
  19. Tunisian Freedom and Dignity Party: Mohamed Tahar Ilahi
  20. Al Iklaa Party: Tahar Hmila
  21. Afek Tounes Party: Yassine Brahim

Tunisian Media Expresses Doubts About The National Dialogue

In the aftermath of the signing of the roadmap, the Tunisian media expressed doubts about whether El-Nahda, which reluctantly joined the national dialogue, was truly willing to pursue it. The first days of talks revealed the party's delaying strategy, which is aimed at preventing the dialogue from attaining its goals.

On October 13, 2013, journalist Imed Trabelsi wrote in the Tunisian media outlet Kapitalis:[15] "After a marathon session Saturday [October 5, 2013, the day the roadmap was signed], of nine hours nonstop, the parties participating in the national dialogue resumed work on Sunday, with the hope of resolving all pending issues. According to the initially agreed schedule, the national dialogue was due to launch Thursday [October 10], after all discrepancies had been cleared up. Unfortunately, these divergences still persist, and difficulties are arising, due mostly to the El-Nahdha officials' clear unwillingness to accept the solutions proposed by the other participants.

"By the end of Saturday's marathon, UGTT secretary-general Houcine Abbasi had announced to the media that work would resume on Sunday, in order to try rapprochement between the different points of view and to allow the officials of the parties to consult with their respective institutions – adding that for the moment, the discussions have been dealing with the issues of the authority concerning the elections, finding a compromise on the constitution, and [the procedures to be used for] changing the government. In other words, in all of the issues on the table, discussions have encountered differences, which so far appear to be insurmountable...

"The secretary-general of the party of the Democratic Patriots Movement (Watad, the party of Chokri Belaid), Zied Lakhdar, explained that discussions were centered on the proposition of forming a commission charged with studying the process of government change, something that was immediately rejected by El-Nahdha. This shows that El-Nahdha actually rejects, while pretending to accept in principle, the idea of the resignation of the [present] government.

"El-Nahdha, along with the other actors, accepted the creation of a commission tasked with facilitating the creation of the independent authority for the elections (ISIE), and also with seeking a compromise concerning the constitution – but at the same time it rejected the idea of a similar commission aimed at devising the methodology [to be used] for the creation of a national technical government. This is a clear sign of the kind of obstacles that this Islamist party will place in the path leading to a national dialogue, [with the aim of] endlessly delaying things, preventing the creation of an independent government, and indefinitely postponing elections. The participants in the current talks will very soon become aware of El-Nahdha's delaying tactics."

In addition, soon after the signing of the road map,[16] El-Nahdha's Shura Council released a statement, in which was mentioned the will to keep the government in place until ANC completed its work – in contradiction of the roadmap requirements.

The Government Remains In Power After October 23

"October 23, two years after the elections." Cartoonist: WillisFromTunis. (source: Tunis Tribune’s Facebook page, October 23, 2013

As mentioned, it has been over two years since the first democratic elections that put the current interim government in power. On October 23, the anniversary date, Tunisia's opposition Front of National salvation called for more protests demanding the immediate departure of the Islamist-led government. Thousands of opposition members took to the streets of Tunis calling for the cabinet to resign.

Columnist Marouen Achouri wrote in an article titled "Welcome to the Second Year of Illegitimacy!" in the Tunisian media outlet Business News:[17] "Today is the 23rd of October 2013; two years have elapsed since the first free and democratic elections took place in Tunisia.

"For some, this date constitutes a reason for celebration, while it distressfully reminds others of the Islamists' rise to power. But what happened during these two years to justify what is going on?

"October 23 is a date that will be permanently branded in the history of Tunisia. Possibly our children's history books will say: 'It so happened that, among the general indifference, and notwithstanding several demonstrations, the Islamist rule that was established in 2011 was allowed to buy time and place its acolytes at the helm of the public administration, thus speeding up the collapse of the Tunisian state...'

"Two years, during which a stunning figure like Chokri Belaid fell, covered in blood, in front of his house, only 100 meters from the police station at El Menzah 6 [a residential neighborhood in Tunis]. Mohamed Brahmi was also assassinated, in a cowardly manner, in front of his home... During these two years, we have been buried in lies, incompetency and dishonesty.

"The ministers who took part in the governments of the Troika... had [managed], in just two [years], to put their hands into all sorts of fishy affairs... No sector was spared, from children’s affairs to education, from foreign policy to the economic management of the country. Everything was banged-up, destroyed, sullied.

"But beware! It is never the government's fault! All of a sudden it is the opposition's [fault]... Suddenly, it is the media that is preventing ministers from liberating their own creative genius. Sometimes, [it is the fault of] obscure foreign forces...

"To this overview about the performance of these rulers, we can add the fact that they have been operating in the most complete illegality and illegitimacy for the past year. Transparency, honesty and engagement [are values] only for the electoral campaign. Right now it is only swindling and usurpation. The praisers of legitimacy and the defenders of the '[National Constituent] Assembly's [ANC's] sovereignty' act today in blatant noncompliance with the text of the law. It is useless to reiterate that the document signed before the elections stipulated that the Assembly was to exist for a period of no longer than one year. Since we are talking about a piece of paper that was signed, it is good to remind that October 23rd 2013 is also the date of commencement of the national dialogue.

"The famous national dialogue is going to start after days and days of talks and dozens of meetings. The aim was to find a way by which every participant might have 'his piece of cake,' as [President] Moncef Marzouki prophetically said. The opposition and the ruling parties are going to sit at the same table in order to try to defuse the political crisis..."

"The outcome of all these twists and turns is an acute crisis of confidence between the population and its politicians... As the proverb says: Politicians' promises bind only those who believe in them. In Tunisia, we are experiencing something unique: we are learning politics before learning democracy.

"October 23, 2013 was the starting date of a deceitful poker game called national dialogue. Although it has produced no results, as expected, it has [nevertheless] produced a new political balance among the political forces of the country..."

El-Nahdha Declares Its Commitment To The Roadmap

On October 24, PM Larayedh insisted that his government would step down within the time limit set in the roadmap, provided that all the other processes stipulated took place as well. In an interview on the national channel Al Wataniya 1[18], he said that he wanted the provisions of the roadmap to be implemented by all parties involved, whether in advance of or after the time limit set for the government's resignation.

Larayedh also, according to a report by the Tunisian press agency TAP, went on to say that "he was ready to implement the roadmap on condition that prospects are clear in the country as regards the completion of the constitution, the working out of the election law, the establishment of an election body, and a clear date for elections."[19] However, the report added, Larayedh affirmed that he could not leave the country to anarchy amidst the terror attacks taking place within the country.

Tunisian columnist Mohammed Dhabri, who is skeptical regarding El-Nahdha's commitment to the roadmap, wrote in the media outlet Kapitalis that the party does not accept the democratic rules and will not easily relinquish power.[20] Dhabri also accused El-Nahdha of cooperating with the Salafists, claiming that "every time El-Nahdha gave the impression that it was losing control… Salafists... came out of the blue with the intent of creating even more confusion, to divert public attention and to sow doubt and terror." He said: "We would like to believe that El-Nahdha has finally committed to abiding by the will of the people in order to negotiate the end of its mandate, which exceeded its term; that it has put aside its viciously partisan interests; that it now places the national interest above any other consideration; and that it also now acknowledges that whatever remains to be done... [in the transition] will be done either without El-Nahdha or with El-Nahdha sitting on the substitutes' bench (or in the spectators' bleachers).

"In short, we could have the impression that the January 14 Revolution can take a deep breath, and that those who carried it out can relax. Well, all this might be just an illusion.

"Neither El-Nahdha's entire apparatus, nor any of its people – from Rached Ghannouchi to the humblest Islamist militant you might meet in the street – will ever relinquish one inch of what they have 'gained' in the last two years...

"Whatever precautions the opposition (or the oppositions) might take today, nothing will happen, and in six, seven, or eight more months, we will have to admit that everything was just a waste of time, that there was no change in power and that there will never be… quite simply because El-Nahdha's people are not and never will be democrats.

"We should ask ourselves whether this is [by any chance] characteristic of their culture, of their mental structure, of their genes, or of something else. For several reasons, I am deeply convinced that by accepting a seat at the table of the national dialogue, El-Nahdha conceded nothing, considering that, in this game that is being played in the Ministry for Human Rights and Justice, in Bardo, it holds very valuable cards and will in the end win the game.

"Despite the soporific declarations of the party officials, [PM] Ali Larayedh continues to send signals indicating his refusal to hand over his throne, where he seems to be at ease, his failures notwithstanding...

"In this analysis, I will skip [discussion of] the weaknesses and the lack of preparation of the opposition. It is true that El-Nahdha greatly capitalized on its opponents' numerous fragilities. [At the same time, the opposition] has got its own resources, and was also able to create new trump cards that it will use in the days, weeks and months to come...

"I have chosen to draw the attention of our readers on El-Nahdha's new weapons, that are all the more lethal for being pernicious and, likely, unsuspected. Here, I will mention just a few of them: the hundreds [or] thousands of partisan appointments, from the highest ranks of the state institutions to the humblest ranks of the Tunisian administration; the apprenticeship they have had in running the country's affairs (although there were only failures, it nonetheless represents the acquisition of experience)... Rached Ghannouchi will use [these weapons] any time events are not under El-Nahdha's full control.

"With regard to the long term, the Hamadi Jebali and Ali Laradyedh governments methodically infiltrated the key posts of the state, and cordoned off the institutional apparatuses by making thousands of appointments that will be useful in what may be called El-Nahdha's total and irreversible hijacking of the revolution. These men and women who have flooded many key posts in the administration are not going to be dislodged any time soon. They are there to serve El-Nahdha's cause, and there they will remain... They are there and will carry out, secretly or openly, the orders from [El-Nahdha headquarters in the Tunis neighborhood of] Montplaisir...

"We can also add the fact that El-Nahdha people have experienced exile and the most terrible repression under the old regime, and have become experts in sabotage, subversion, and secret dirty jobs. This clandestine activity, and this marginalization, has taught them to survive... and to take the lead...

"Something else that the El-Nahdha people have learned is that an occasion like [the first free elections] of October 23, 2011 is an unbelievable opportunity for them to capture political power and take over the government. They were able to take a great advantage of this godsend: they placed its men and women in dozens of ministries and state secretariats. El-Nahdha officials were granted the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the country's affairs, to take decisions on any issue, to steer politics. The results so far leave much to be desired, but that is not what is important. What counts for El-Nahdha is that they have learned to rule (on the backs of the Tunisian people and because of the January 14 [Revolution]). Whether their government was good or bad is of secondary importance for the Montplaisir leaders [i.e. El-Nahdha]: For them it was a first test, a crash course, on-the-job training… In short, the El-Nahdha people had a chance at a two-year apprenticeship in government, during which they learned their trade.

"This attempt by El-Nahdha to master the art of governing was also accompanied by its relentless offensive on the ground in the political debate. Its omnipresence and domination forced us into discussions about the most unimaginable topics, and into a huge waste of time...

"Every time El-Nahdha gave the impression that it was losing control of the situation due to the anger and the mobilization in the streets – every time it was compelled to step back and seemed on the verge of collapse – Salafists... came out of the blue with the intent of creating even more confusion, to divert public attention and to sow doubt and terror.

"In sum, 'Rached Ghannouchi's children' constituted very efficient infantry troops for El-Nahdha's conquest – they cleared the ground, and exterminated the opposition that dared to oppose the project of the Islamization of Tunisia.

"From... the political assassinations (of Lotfi Nagued, Chokri Belaid, and Mohamed Brahmi), [to] the attack on the U.S. Embassy [in 2012, which followed the deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi] [to] the numerous deaths of security personnel, national guard and army troops, and more – we became increasingly aware that nothing and nobody will be able to stop the Islamist monster. Over time, we realized that Islamo-democracy – an invention of the resident of Carthage Palace [i.e. President Marzouki] – was merely deception and mendacity, aimed at hijacking our January 14 [Revolution].

"We have said it already, but let us repeat it: El-Nahdha people are not and can never be democrats. The fact that today they are going to sit around the table of the national dialogue changes none of that. They will be unyielding. They will make no concessions."

The Suspension Of The National Dialogue

On November 5, TAP reported that the national dialogue had been suspended.[21] UGTT secretary-general Hassine Abassi announced that the Quartet sponsoring the national dialogue had decided to suspend it until it had a solid foundation that would assure success, and that no consensus regarding the next prime minister had been reached – the list of eight candidates for which had been, according to the Front for National Salvation, presented by the Commission of Governmental Process to the plenary session of the national dialogue on October 28. The candidates were Ahmed Mestiri,[22] Kais Saied,[23] Mansour Moalla,[24] Mohamed Naceur,[25] Chawki Tabib,[26] Radhi Meddeb,[27] Mustapha Kamel Nabli,[28] and Jelloul Ayed.[29]


"The suspension of the national dialogue" – and the hanging of Tunisian citizens – by Tunisian cartoonist Chedly Belkhamsa. (source: official Facebook page of the Tunis Tribune, November 5, 2013.)

Abassi added that the way things are going in the assembly is not very reassuring. However, he said, the national dialogue should continue, because "the Quartet does not believe in failure, and Tunisia has no other choice but dialogue."[30]

In the meantime, the Tunisian judiciary rejected, for the second time, the list of candidates who had been chosen by the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), in its capacity of being part of the authority charged with the organization of future elections. "The Court has decided to cancel the works of the commission responsible for the selection of candidacies" of the Higher Independent Authority for the elections (ISIE), announced Administrative Court of Tunis spokesman Habib Latrech on November 11, 2013 on Radio Shems-FM. According to Latrech, some of the 36 candidates chosen by the ANC did not fulfill the criteria set by the law.

In September, the administrative judiciary had canceled for the first time the work of the ANC on the same basis. By the beginning of November, the same authority had stopped the elections of the member of the ISIE because the assembly had not followed the requested procedures. Furthermore, the Ettakatol party has decided to suspend its participation in the ANC, after some amendments were brought to the internal rules of the assembly.[31] Hence, the crisis is being prolonged.

* A. Mahjar-Barducci is Research Fellow for North African Studies at MEMRI; R. Sosnow is Head Editor at MEMRI.

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Kapitalis (Tunisia), August 23, 2013

[3] Al-Arabiya.net, November 8, 2013

[4] On October 18, 2012, Lotfi Nagued, coordinator of the secular party Nidaa Tounes, was killed after being beaten by members of the League for the Protection of the Revolution (LPR), a group close to El-Nahdha; he was attacked in his office in Tataouine.

[6] Kapitalis (Tunisia), September 26, 2013.

[7] Kapitalis (Tunisia), Octobre 7, 2013.

[9] TAP (Tunisia), September 10, 2013.

[10] Ennahdha.tn, September 17, 2013

[11] TAP (Tunisia), September 20, 2013

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 3, 2013

[13] Alarabiya.net, September 23, 2013.

[14] Kapitalis (Tunisia), October 6, 2013

[15] Kapitalis (Tunisia), October 13, 2013.

[17] Business News (Tunisia), October 23, 2013.

[18] Alkhadra.nessma.tv/video/news/l-interview-du-chef-du-gouvernement-ali-larayedh-sur-el-wataniya-1.html

[19] TAP (Tunisia), October 25, 2013.

[20] Kapitalis, October 13, 2013.

[21] TAP (Tunisia), November 5, 2013.

[22] Ahmed Mestiri is a politician and lawyer born in La Marsa on July 2, 1925. An early leader in the Tunisian Independence Movement, he was a member of the Liberal Constitutional Party (commonly called Destour Party) that was founded in 1920. As a young man Mestiri studied law in French Colonial Algiers from 1944-1948 and continued his studies in Paris where he was graduated. Spurce: Tunisia Live (Tunisia), November 2, 2013.

[23] Kais Saied is a professor of constitutional law; see his Facebook page at facebook.com/kais.saied.2013.

[24] Mansour Moalla is a Tunisian political figure and economist.

[25] Mohamed Naceur served as the Tunisian Minister of Communication Technologies under former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, from January 2010 to January 2011.

[26] Chawki Tabib is an attorney and an activist of the Tunisian civil society.

[27] Radhi Meddeb is an engineering graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique de Paris and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris. He established Comete, an engineering, consultancy and real estate firm, of which he is currently the CEO. See his Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Meddeb-Radhi-page-officielle-/196670587059011.

[28] Mustapha Kamel Nabli is a Tunisian economist. He has served as Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia since the revolution of 2011.

[29] Jelloul Ayed is a banker and former Minister of Finance from January to December 2011.

[30] TAP (Tunisia), November 5, 2013.

[31] TAP (Tunisia), November 7, 2013.