Until the elections of October 23 2011, Tunisia had benefited from unprecedented international sympathy. Having been the first country in the region to remove a dictatorship by the most peaceful and civilized means, Tunisia earned the respect and esteem of the world. It even received a long standing ovation from the U.S. Congress. Shortly after the end of the dictatorship, January 14, 2011, the country received hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war in neighboring Libya. Tunisia’s humane and proper management of this influx of refugees required great solidarity and reinforced the image of Tunisians as a peaceful, pluralistic, open and tolerant society. The whole world saw this freed country as a model for the democratization of the region and all dreams were then allowed.
Alas, the dream lasted only a few months and the accrued capital of sympathy will soon be spent. Elected with a mandate to write a new constitution by October 22, 2012, members of the Constituent Assembly, naively or intentionally, have endorsed the establishment of a new government dominated by the Islamist party Ennahdha in coalition with its two partners from secular left wing. This ended by a confiscation of power for an indefinite period and a beginning of a nightmare for the country.
Chaotic management of the country by incompetent politicians having only an ideological plan lacking both political and economic vision coupled with the absence of any viable project has worsened the situation in the country and aggravated social tensions. Furthermore, there has been flow of Islamist preachers, under the watchful eye of Ennahdha, who praised the Islamist party and called for the radicalization of the political arena, while glorifying hatred against secular segment of the population, women and opposition parties.
Ennahdha’s officials, while marginalizing their two partners, have repeatedly declared that their goal is to establish political Islam in Tunisia, in defiance of the country’s emergencies and of the distress of the impoverished segment of the population that still awaits an improvement of their daily life.
The repetitive abuse of religion by extremist groups has led to a widespread insecurity and of chaos in public affairs, tarnishing the country’s image. Nevertheless this strategy of chaos has benefited the Islamist party who used chaos to strengthen its grip on the state’s institutions and to maintain power without being accountable. Ennahdha dominates the government and the assembly despite having received only 37% of the vote.
Despite its total failure to carry out its obligation and lack of integrity, and the loss of credibility both inside and outside the country, the coalition dominated by the Islamist party Ennahdha prefers to continue to marginalize the country on the international level and to ignore that its mandate expired on October 22, 2012. The opposition’s parties did not take advantage of this deadline to play a more productive role and lost this opportunity to present a non-confidence motion, since the government has not delivered any positive achievement.
Two years after the revolution, Tunisia does not yet have any real program or specific roadmap to build sustainable democratic institutions and a viable economy, despite the country’s enormous potential and the preparedness of its professional elite.
In order to perpetuate its grip on power and because it is more than ever weakened, the Islamist party Ennahdha is now dangling before the opposition members, promising their integration soon in a future reshuffled government. Should they collaborate, it will only benefit Ennahdha and will be a huge discredit to those who would accept to be part of this illegitimate government dominated by Islamists.
This will also constitute a betrayal of the revolution that claimed democratic change, freedom and dignity. It will only lead to an endless illegitimacy of the authorities, while relegating the future elections to an indefinite date. Most importantly, it will spread the responsibility for the failure to a greater number of representatives and parties. Ennahdha will only get stronger and less tarnished while its potential allies of convenience, by accepting this proposal and by supporting this illegitimacy, will become marginalized or even eliminated from the political arena once the real democratic process resumes.
By Ali Guidara