In the lead up to parliamentary and presidential elections next year, a number of political parties are banding together to stand a chance against the Ennahda party, which won 40% of the vote in Tunisia’s first democratic elections after Ben Ali’s fall from power in 2011.



In the lead up to parliamentary and presidential elections next year, a number of political parties are banding together to stand a chance against the Ennahda party, which won 40% of the vote in Tunisia’s first democratic elections after Ben Ali’s fall from power in 2011.


Ennahda, a recently moderate and highly organized Islamist party, was founded in 1981 and inspired by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.  Having won 89 out of 217 seats in Tunisia’s last election, opposition parties hope to create more of a balance in the next round of voting.


“Any attempt to displace the Ennahda Party would drag the country into chaos, destroying the national interests,” said Rashed Ghannouchi, the Ennahda party leader.  Ghannouchi said his party had reached “maturity” and might consider forming its own coalitions with other Islamic-oriented parties.


Observers of the Tunisian political landscape believe that the next stage will have four major players: the ruling coalition led by the Islamist Ennahda Party, the Republican Party, which comprises the centrist parties, the political constitutional bodies that have started to regroup and finally, the left parties. 



The Republican Party

Founded on 9 April 2012, the Republican Party comprises one of the most prominent opposition parties during Ben Ali’s reign, including the Afek Party, the Irada Party and the Bledi Party.  There are also many independents, the most well known being the former Minister of Employment, Said Aidi.


“So many parties participated in the last elections and that led to the dispersion of votes,” said Wissam al-Saghir, a member of the Republic Party political office. “This led to a clear domination of the Islamic stream so the need to form coalitions emerged.  The Republican Party was created by merging a number of parties, independent lists and political figures.”


“Today we have a new picture of the political landscape in Tunisia,” he added. “I believe that the number of parties formed after the January 14 revolution will decrease. Parties now have a more mature and realistic political vision. They will get rid of political selfishness to strike an equilibrium in the Tunisian political landscape.”


The Mouvement Ettajdid, the Tunisian Labor Party and independents from the Modern Democratic Pole formed a coalition. The Social Democratic Track Movement is expected to join The Republican Party.


“We are looking forward to the second track that will represent a quantum leap in the balance of political forces,” said Samir al-Tayeb, spokesperson for the Social Democratic Track Movement, in a press statement announcing coalition negotiations with the Republican Party.


The Left Parties

The left parties seek to unite and gain a spot in the Tunisian political landscape after their disappointment in the Constituent Assembly elections.  They will form the January 14 Front, which includes the Communist Labor Party, the Democratic Patriotic Movement and other left groups.


“After the fall of Ben Ali’s regime, the country witnessed a boom of 110 political parties. It is quite natural for these parties, especially after the last elections, to form coalitions,” said Muhammad Muzam, a member of the Communist Labor Party political office.  “The Labour Party believes that forming fronts should be based on achieving the revolution’s political aims, namely, establishing a democratic regime that protects liberties and rights and achieves social justice and regional development.”


“The political dynamism that Tunisia is witnessing is expected,” said Abdul Razzaq al-Hammami, the leader of the leftist Democratic National Action Party.  “After the fall of Ben Ali’s regime, the country experienced a party boom, which exceeded 100 parties. Today, most of these parties tend to form coalitions for many considerations, most importantly are the results of the Constituent Assembly elections and the tendency to unite forces and strike a qualitative balance in the Tunisian political landscape.”    


The Constitutionalists

The return of the constitutionalists, named after the late president Habib Bourquiba’s Socialist Destourian (Constitutional) Party, has proved controversial in the Tunisian political arena.  Six parties joined L’initiative Party, which is led by Kamal Murjan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs during Ben Ali’s reign, following the initiative of the former Prime Minister Al-Baji Qa’id as-Sibsi. The initiative was described by the Islamist Ennahda Party as “the return of the Ralliers” (in relation to the former Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally Party) hiding under the guise of Bourguibism ( the belief that Islam and democracy are compatible).  Some of its leaders confirmed that there was no way for them to return to political life.  


“Whenever there are elections, some parties resort to the Ralliers, given their tremendous electoral strength. When leaderships and parties agree on a unified project, some other political parties rush to warn about the scarecrow Ralliers, which was previously used against the Islamists. This is unacceptable because at the end of the day, they are Tunisian and it is not acceptable for millions of people to pay for the mistakes of a few people,” said Samira al-Showashi, the spokesperson of L’initiative Party.


“The October 23rd elections revealed many imperfections and led to one political party dominating the Constituent Assembly, due to the dispersion of votes. It’s quite natural for most parties to reconsider their tactics in the political landscape through forming alliances and coalitions, which is considered to be the most realistic and effective strategy.”