27/07/2012

The new political course of Ennahda and institutional reforms in Tunisia

Since early 2012, Tunisia hosted more than two million tourists, representing an increase of 40% over the previous year. This increase is due to the internal stability brought by the new political and social action of the Tunisian government, determined to stand out from the practices the previous regime, led by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Exiled in Saudi Arabia with his wife, the former President of Tunisia was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for the death of insurgents’ during the repression of the “Jasmine Revolution”. The Tunisian authorities are also working to recover the treasures that Ben Ali and his family had transferred abroad during the years of his regime. In this regard, the current Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, has announced that, during the last weeks, Tunisia has managed to recover property valued at € 28 million that Ben Ali had located in Lebanon and that suspected to be the result of the pillaging of the Tunisian treasures organized by the clan of the former President of Tunisia.

Also, the government announced that legislative elections will be held in Tunisia on the 20th of March, also with the probable participation of the Islamists of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Having been operating illegally, the party has recently received approval from the Tunisian government to engage in political activities. Considering the central point of its political program the application of sharia as the fundamental law of the State, Hizb ut-Tahrir has most support within the Salafi movement in Tunisia. Meanwhile, the moderate Islamic party Ennahda needs to regain its credibility after the enthusiasm that followed the election of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia. The party took a new turn, while reelecting Rashid al-Ghannushi as party leader with more than 72.5% of votes. He will work to better prepare for the 2013 parliamentary elections, wishing to present Ennahda with a different face.

Another face is certainly that of the future constitution, which may be affected by the recent official request from UNICEF to include children’s rights within the new Tunisian Constitution, whose the text is under preparation and should be completed in the autumn. However, it should be noted that the agreements between the political forces represented in the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia are blocked and this could lead to an insurmountable fracture between Ennahda, which has the majority, and most other political parties, which present themselves as reformists. The conflict is based on the choice of the kind of political system: it will be the biggest change of the Tunisian Constitution, which should define the role of major institutional actors (Parliament, Prime Minister and President of Tunisia) in Tunisian future. Ennahda supports the creation of a pure parliamentary system, while other parties support a semi-parliamentary system marked by a more “active” President of Tunisia who would have clear prerogatives. Currently, both positions are far from being able to find an agreement and there is a fear of a deadlock durable. To prevent that to happen, the possibility of holding a referendum on this point appears not only as a possible solution to break the deadlock, but as an acceptance of an irresolvable contradiction between the different positions.

GIACOMO MORABITO

University of Messina