News / Middle East

    Tunisia's Political Transition at Crossroads

    Demonstrators demand ouster of Islamist-dominated government during a protest outside the Constituent Assembly headquarters, Tunis, August 3, 2013.
    Demonstrators demand ouster of Islamist-dominated government during a protest outside the Constituent Assembly headquarters, Tunis, August 3, 2013.
    Mohamed Elshinnawi
    Almost three years after the Arab Spring began, Tunisians are still struggling with their revolution. Political gridlock and violence have paralyzed the country, sending its economy into a tailspin ahead of planned national elections and the formation of a new government.
     
    Tunisia’s transition from dictatorship to democracy seemed to be working at first.  The country conducted elections that led to a diverse and balanced National Constituent Assembly, formed a new coalition government under the leadership of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which managed to rise above the usual Islamist/secularist disputes, and began drafting a new constitution setting the stage for new elections to conclude the transition.
     
    But the assassination of opposition leader and Assembly member Mohamed Brahmi on July 25 dealt a shattering blow to the transition process. The killing was the second political assassination in six months, following the murder of left-wing politician Chokri Belaid. Both killings were blamed on the militant Salafi group, Ansar al-Shariah, which the government branded a terrorist organization.
     
    Karim Mezran, resident North Africa expert at the Atlantic Council, said the violence has led to a political crisis.
     
    “Ennahda, which governs in coalition with two smaller secular parties, is under increasing pressure from the opposition over an accusation that it is imposing an Islamist agenda, failing to deal with violent Salafi Islamists and mismanaging the economy,” Mezran said.
     
    Mezran added that the National Salvation Front (NSF), an umbrella group of opposition parties led by the Nidaa Tounes party, which is demanding the government’s dissolution, is now emboldened by what they have seen in Egypt, where opposition protests led to the military’s ouster of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood government. But, he noted, the Tunisian army — unlike its Egyptian counterpart — has no tradition of political intervention.
     
    Mohamed Sahbi Basly, who heads the al-Mustaqbal party, said another difference between Egypt and Tunisia is that in Egypt the army wields power. In Tunisia, he said, that role falls to the powerful Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), which undertook recent mediation efforts because it is the only national organization that could press parties toward consensus.
     
    Ennahda leader Rashid Ghannouchi approved the mediation effort and held an unprecedented meeting with Kayed Essebsi, of the Nidaa Tounes party, previously shunned by Ennahda as a relic of Tunisia’s old order.
     
    Mediation efforts center around a UGTT proposal that calls for a change of government following a national dialogue on the formation of a new cabinet and constitution. So far, however, the NSF umbrella group has refused the proposal for broader dialogue, saying it wants a non-partisan cabinet to oversee any national dialogue that takes place.
     
    Tunisians want to avoid Egypt scenario
     
    Emphasizing differences between Tunisian Islamists and opposition from their Egyptian counterparts, Mezran of the Atlantic Council said most Tunisians want to avoid the Egyptian scenario that has left hundreds dead and the country more polarized than ever.
     
    “The Ennahda party is more popular, flexible and willing to compromise than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” he said. “The Tunisian opposition has not been able to gather the masses that its Egyptian counterpart was able to mobilize, let alone the fact that the Tunisian army is neutral.”
     
    Basly of the al-Mustaqbal party agreed that, unlike their counterparts in Egypt, Ennahda leaders seem willing to compromise.
     
    “Tunisian society and political parties learned from the Egyptian scenario that continued polarization does lead to confrontation and violence, which will obstruct efforts to rejuvenate tourism as a major source for revenues,” he said. “So they will end up reaching a compromise instead.”
     
    But, Basly said, this cannot be done quickly, and he predicts that elections will be delayed until March of next year to allow more time for a compromise.
     
    Radwan Masmoudi, president of Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Tunisia, predicts an eventual agreement between Ennahda and the Nidaa Tounes party leading to a split in the opposition.
     
    “Nidaa Tounes can strike a deal with Ennahda at the expense of the left-wing Popular Front especially if the two sides agree on the popular demand to form an independent non-partisan technocratic government to ensure fair elections and amendments to the drafted constitution that would guarantee a civil state” he said.
     
    Mezran of the Atlantic Council said now nearly three years after their revolution, Tunisia is at a crossroads.
     
    “Polarization could continue and politicians could resort to mobilize street demonstrations that eventually could turn into violence, or they could be wise enough to avoid the Egyptian scenario and reach a peaceful settlement to their political differences,” he said.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.