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Tunisia: Can Ennahdha succeed in governing?

The Islamist party won most of the seats in the new Constituent Assembly in Tunisia. After 23 years of hiding, Ennahdha inherits power in post Ben Ali’s Tunisia. Since the announcement of preliminary results, Ennahdha started by developing a conciliatory language or a “politically correct” one. As soon as you ask one of its members, for instance, “what will you do” to solve a particular problem, he corrects you with “what will we do” to solve it.

Faced with a partisan political landscape that almost implodes [Chebbi’s PDP, which is now in the opposition, Inoubli’s party that dissolved itself, some lists of Al Aridha that disavow their leader and the first resignation in Afek Tounes], after the unexpected results of the election, Ennahdha apparently reaches out to all political stakeholders, even those that had not won any seats in the Constituent Assembly elections of October 23, 2011.

However, it is equally legitimate to ask whether the Ennahdha party had a choice but to reach out. Belonging to the same Islamist movement Ennahdha, although having run for the October 23 elections in an independent list, Abdelfattah Mourou had grasped the meaning of the real purpose of Najib Chebbi when he announced that the PDP refuses any coalition and will henceforth be in the opposition.

“To be or not to be”

Ennahdha has soon understood that, alone in power and after having accepted and certified that the term of the Constitution does not exceed 12 months, it will be in front of more than 100 opposition parties.

At a time when it will be alone to “sort it out for itself” to govern the ungovernable and almost struggle in the multitude of social, economic, financial and personal problems of Tunisians who have been waiting, for 10 months, for employment, wage increases and more development, this new front will not only focus on preparing the next election, but will also have the opportunity to make of Ennahdha’s failures a way to return with full force to the polls.

Political parties, losers or partly winners, have also realized the importance of the status of opposition offered by their failure to Ennahdha and being for or against joining the opposition. Differences in some parties still prevent them of reaching a clear position about a coalition with the majority party.

The recent resignation in Afek Tounes and the indecision of Mustapha Ben Jaafar to clearly announce his acceptance could be evidence to that.

Governing alone in this difficult situation where national protest movements started again and where the economy hobbles along, crippled by tourism and FDIs, would hold Ennahdha accountable in case of failure and this would be painful if not fatal for this party in the next election.

Originally scheduled for November 9, the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly is still awaiting the formalization of results of the October 23 elections, which cannot be announced before expiration of the deadline of complaints against infringements and irregularities committed by some lists. And this regardless of the still controversial discussions regarding the vocation of the next Government: political or technocratic.

Once the Government is formed, its political components should agree on the program, including the economic one, which it will implement. In front, they (those who participate in the government) will have a population with huge national, regional and personal expectations, awaiting jobs for graduates and for the 700,000 unemployed, development and regional balance, social justice, equity, tax and financial resources needed to revive the economy, the issue of corruption of justice, national reconciliation and the future of confiscated businesses.

The Government will also be called to focus on the issue of re-establishing the authority of the State and its institutions, restoring confidence to accused businessmen who were attacked from all sides and addressing the difficult issue of association.

Some departments will be more inaccessible for the new rulers than others. These include the Interior or finance ministries. This would explain why some sources, in Ennahdha, already reveal the names of ministers who could be maintained. Indeed, the names of Jalloul Ayed for the finance, Habib Essid for the interior and Mustapha Kamel Nabli for the Central Bank are referred to. To all this must be added the demands and concessions for the distribution of ministerial positions and the negotiations that will follow.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar is already threatening to pull out from a Government where “appropriate conditions” are not met, reminding of his withdrawal from the first government of Mohamed Ghannouchi.

With all this, Ennahdha would have become increasingly aware since October 23, according to sources close to the Islamist party, that its historic leader Rached Ghannouchi is a bit overshadowing its candidate for prime minister and considers even awarding him the role of “guardian of the temple” of its doctrine and the orthodoxy of the movement. Time and the media are providing the opportunity to Hammadi Jbali to manage, little by little, to give a more modern, more open and more human image to a party that still cannot get rid of its history strongly tinged with fundamentalism and closing, that of an iconoclastic party where images of people burnt in Bab Souika and from bombs in Sousse and Monastir are still struggling to fade.

Will it manage to overcome these challenges in 12 months? The population and the opposition will certainly be vigilant, critical and prepared to change their minds in the next elections.” Inshallah”

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