Tunisia and Internal Crisis for Ennahda: Assassination of Belaid and Undermining of PM Jebali

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Tunisia and Internal Crisis for Ennahda: Assassination of Belaid and Undermining of PM Jebali

Boutros Hussein and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The political crisis is still evolving in Tunisia after the brutal assassination of Chokri (Shokri) Belaid. It appeared that Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali had responded quickly to the brutal murder of Belaid by rallying for a period of unity. However, within 24 hours it became apparent that the Ennahda Party is divided and by their collective actions they are sowing the seeds of more confusion within the body politic of Tunisia.

Belaid was known for being against the Islamist tide because he supported a more open and secular Tunisia. In some quarters, the Ennahda Party is known for being “a mild Islamist political party” but for others this movement may have more sinister undercurrents in the long-term. This is open to interpretation because the political process in Tunisia is still chaotic and based on mutual distrust in many quarters.

In many ways, the same distrust between secular forces and Islamist parties can be seen in Egypt even if many angles diverge because of different social and economic factors in both nations. However, within the Islamist movements of Egypt and Tunisia it is fair to say that the Ennahda Party in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are much more moderate; than more militant Salafist forces which seek to control the mechanisms of the state. Yet for many secularists who worry about the real motives of “more moderate Islamist forces,” you still have a lot of concern given the events of what happened after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Also, the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt remains murky and the “veneer of moderation” still remains to be tested in the long-term.

Jebali stated that “Belaid was killed, but the real target behind the assassination is the Tunisian revolution as a whole…He represented the true values of dialogue, respecting and embracing others in rejecting violence. This is a political assassination.”

Jebali immediately after the assassination of Belaid called for the government to be dissolved in order for “a government of technocrats who would be non-partisan” to take charge during this difficult political period in Tunisia. The Prime Minister notified the Tunisian people on national television about his plans to restore unity. He stated that a new government would be filled by “competent nationals without political affiliation” and that thepolitical mandate of the new ministers will be “limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held in the shortest possible time.”

It is clear that Jebali decided on this action because he fears about political convulsions getting out of hand in Tunisia. However, others within the Ennahda Party have rejected this within less than 24 hours and this can only create more tensions. After all, it means that the Ennahda Party is divided and that no real political consultation must have taken place. Also, it clearly undermines the Prime Minister of Tunisia because now his words seem meaningless. Therefore, this disunity will only further lead to mounting tensions within Tunisia and it will also create internal divisions within the Ennahda Party. Aftrer all, close allies of the prime minister can’t be happy with the current internal political situation and clearly Jebali must also be alarmed by the disarray within the Ennahda Party.

The Vice-President of Ennahda, Abdelhamid Jelassi, clearly highlights the internal divisions and lack of consultation because he states that “The prime minister did not ask the opinion of his party.” Jelassi further comments that “We in Ennahda believe Tunisia needs a political government now. We will continue discussions with others parties about forming a coalition government.”

Therefore, with Tunisian witnessing mass demonstrations and with labour unions calling for a general strike this Friday, the last thing Tunisia needs is enormous confusion within the political hierarchy. However, the good intentions of Jebali have been undermined by the political party he belongs to and this doesn’t augur well for Tunisia.

Tunisians are waiting anxiously to see how events unfold because the funeral of Belaid will be held on Friday and this alongside the general strike will test the institutions and armed forces of Tunisia. At the same time the Ennahda Party is in disarray. Therefore, many Tunisians are fearful about the dark forces of Islamist militants and the possible hand of the old guard which may seek to exploit the crisis.



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