Ennahda Party: In Tunisia, Ennadha Evokes Memories of President Ben Ali

When the Ennahda movement won the elections in Tunisia one year ago, it was in great part due to their 'credit' of having been oppressed by the Ben Ali regime for decades, that made Rached Ghannouchi's party seem like the rightful successor to the ousted dictator.

Seizing the first possibility to self determination and an auto-defined concept of society, great parts of the Tunisian population were convinced that an Islamist party should govern the post-revolutionary country. Even if the  most urgent challenges for Tunisia and the core reasons for the revolution were economic, it is still Islam that defines the Tunisian people's modern identity and provides ground to master those challenges.

Since these characteristics have been oppressed for too long, the challenge now is not to fall from one extreme into another. The Ennahda movement faces major inner conflicts with its far right and salafist members whose support it cannot afford to lose. Whether party leader Rachid
Ghannouchi himself is the committed democrat he claims to be or not* might not be able to be proven, but also it doesn't have to be.

Either way, the past months have shown, that the government under Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali government for financial reasons tries to comply with U.S. and EU terms, while at the same time searches to avoid the impression of preventive obedience. The government's delayed reaction and lack of will to convict Salafist delinquents, shows how much Ennahda fears to put off extremist supporters — criminals Ghannouchi repeatedly calls, "Our sons, who  remind me of my own youth."

The situation is further aggravated by prominent Ennahda politicians that openly call for violence against whoever threatens 'public morals.' But, while civil society has proven itself vivid and defensive against the numerous attacks on journalists and women's rights, and holds widespread debates, Ennahda (also from lack of economic successes) keeps on putting religious issues on the top of the agenda. These topics that allow little space for objective argumentation against ideologically blinkered opponents. Furthering that spiral of violence leads to civil war-like situations, which allow the government to once again extend the state of emergency.

At the same time, the population's discontent with the Jebali government is growing and while the opposition finally seems to find common terms, Ghannouchi most probably didn't choose the announced election date by mistake: the June 23 is unacceptable both for students (exam date) and seasonal workers (harvest season) – and is therefore likely to be revised. Responding to its critics, Ennahda will then generously show its will to compromise and reschedule elections to a later date.

In the meantime, the ambiance on the Tunisian streets is steadily changing. Disposition to violence rises, less women smoke or drink beer in public, and Mosques turn up their speakers' volume. Already, the revolution slogan "Deux fois sept ca fait quatorze" ('Two times 7 makes 14' — as in November 7, 1987 when Ben Ali took over the presidency after ousting Habib Bourguiba and January 14, 2012 when he fled the country) is amended to "Deux fois RCD ca fait Ennahda." (Two times RCD is Ennadha.) RCD was Ben Ali's party.

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* Recently published video coverage suggests he's not and even though Ghannouchi publicly waived any governmental post, this applauded decision aimed to refute his critics' mistrust, but is foiled by Ennahda's style of governance. Despite him not being an official member of the government, it was Ghannouchi who two weeks ago announced the official election date. Responding to a culminating debate about whether elections would be realized in the near future, he openly contributed to´weakening the Troika's credibility as executive. What committed democrat would take that risk with a democratically elected government, right in the middle  of post-revolutionary turmoils? 

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Lilian Emonds

During my studies of Political Sciences and History in Germany and France, I have gained experience in travel documentation and the initiation of intercultural dialogue. Inspired by the most recent global youth movements and my latest travels through North African countries, the G8 & G20 Youth Summit, taking place in Washington DC, June 2012, for me is a most welcomed opportunity to deliberate the youth's opinion on current and future challenges our world faces today and - together with my colleagues from the Summit's press corps - make the voice of our generation be heard!

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