Tunisians are holding their breaths while anxiously observing the current political developments in Egypt. Whilst the vast majority of Tunisians stand in support of the latest events in Egypt, Islamists condemn the ‘military coup against Egypt’s first democratically-elected president’. The crucial question, however still remains – will Tunisia take the cue from the Egyptian protest movement Tamarod?

Tunisians are holding their breaths while anxiously observing the current political developments in Egypt. Whilst the vast majority of Tunisians stand in support of the latest events in Egypt, Islamists condemn the ‘military coup against Egypt’s first democratically-elected president’. The crucial question, however still remains – will Tunisia take the cue from the Egyptian protest movement Tamarod?

Inspired by the current events in Egypt, a group of Tunisian youth comprised of both men and women, announced the launch of the Tunisia Tamarod protest movement, whose goal is to “overturn the National Constituent Assembly that is working towards drafting a new constitution laying the ground for a non-democratic state”. The announcement came out after the social media campaign of Tunisia Tamarod, particularly its campaign on Facebook, which was launched after its success in gathering thousands of signatures supporting the demands of the campaign.


As a profile picture on facebook:”This person supports Tamarod” 

In a public statement, Mohamed Bennour, coordinator of the Tunisian Tamarod, said the youth of Tunisia are following in the footsteps of the Egyptian youth! “The campaign launched a petition against the new rulers of Tunisia and succeeded in having thousands of people to sign the said petition,” he said.

The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the largest labor union in Tunisia, which fostered the Tunisian revolts and played a vital role in ousting the previous President Zain al-Abidin Ben Ali, congratulated the Egyptian army for embracing the will of the Egyptians, and called for peaceful resistance against tyranny; and urged for working to prevent the country from falling in the spiral of violence. The executive bureau of UGTT issued a statement in which it expressed its “relief at the fall of a regime whose partisan interests take precedence over the national interest, and deviated from its goals. Not only did the regime embrace totalitarianism, but also claimed exclusive authority and power while endorsing disruption as its methodology.”

Ghannouchi is not amused

Contrary to the view of the vast majority of Tunisians, Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahda Movement, Tunisia’s main Islamist ruling party, stressed that the Egyptian scenario will not be repeated in Tunisia.  

“There are some wishful youth thinkers who assume that the Egyptian scenario can be repeated in Tunisia. Not only does it place their endeavors in vain but demonstrates their deductive fallacy” he told Asharq Al-Awsat in an exclusive interview on Thursday. “In its bid to avoid ideological polarization and bring as wide a consensus as possible to the new government, Ennahda made some compromises in order to pursue a serious strategy aimed at achieving consensus between the Islamist and the modernist trends, and thus spared Tunisia the danger of division,” he explained further.

In a post he made on his official Facebook page on Saturday morning, Ghannouchi, urged – by the name of Allah and the Muslim nation – all the Egyptians supporting the ousted President Mohamed Morsi to maintain their position and not to go home until they bring the train of freedom and democracy back on the [right] track, and to restore the legitimate ruling regime so that the elected President, Mohamed Morsi can continue assuming the responsibilities that the Egyptian nation has assigned to him.

Not only do these endeavors support the public will of Egyptians, but represent a resounding victory for the principles of democracy, freedom and Islam.

In a speech he delivered on the same day, the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties, which is the party of Mustapha bin Jaafar – The Chairman of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly – the co-ruling party in Tunisia – held a conference in which Ghannouchi suggested that the Venezuelan experience, where the mass uprising defeated the military coup in Venezuela against President Chavez though it was supported by the US, will repeat itself again in Egypt where the Egyptian revolt will prevail in spite of all the coup attempts. “Mohamed Morsi will return to power and reactivate the constitution. He will be the Chavez of Egypt”, he speculated.

Al-Sadiq Shuru, a prominent leader in Ennahda Movement and a member in the National Constituent Assembly that is accused of its ties with extreme parties, called the Assembly to “place restrictions on freedoms, but, without imposing excessive lenity or excessive strictness in application. As for freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, neither should be absolute, on the ground that the former may be used to justify insulting Islam while the latter may permit apostasy.” Further, he stressed the point that counter-revolution forces still dream about toppling the constitution and the National Constituent Assembly. For these reasons, ‘whoever claims that the Egyptian scenario will repeat itself in Tunisia is delusional and will be stopped once and for good.’ He added.

On its official Facebook page, the National League for the Protection of the Revolution, which the democratic forces in Tunisia consider to be the militant violent arm of Ennahda Movement, made a post warning all the parties, including the opposition that ‘endeavor to overturn the legitimate ruling regime’ and hope for a coup in Tunisia, not to repeat the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia. Further to the point, it assured that ‘the Leagues for the Protection of the revolution stand ready not only to defend the country and people, but to clean out the opposition.’ The media had its share of criticism too as authorities called for closing all what they described as ‘media horns glorifying the military coup in Egypt’ and so the government should learn from the current situation in Egypt and combat the said media using their own tactics.

Opposition takes a stand

 On the other hand, the democratic opposition parties in Tunisia took a stand in support of the change in Egypt and hailed the Egyptian army for taking the side of people who went out in demos and ‘million-man marches’ demanding the resignation of Morsi and end the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood movement on the decision-making positions in Egypt.

The Call of Tunisia movement founded by the former Prime Minister Beji Caid el Sebsi, which opinion polls indicates to be the main and the strongest competitor of Ennahda Movement, announced that it is time for the democratic transition path to be reconsidered.  It called for ‘the dissolution of the government, holding consultations in order to form a ‘national salvation’ government  comprising of qualified officials to steer the country, outlining a clear electoral roadmap, forming a committee to reform the constitution,  the resolution of the so-called Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution and the prosecution of the members thereof.

The movement stated that the electoral system of Tunisia is non-consensual and illegitimate and described Ennahda movement and its allies as being intransigent in respect to the process of drafting the constitution. It also criticized the employment of non-competent staff in the government and the agencies thereof, particularly in the security forces, on the grounds of their loyalty, all the while, competent staffs are being dismissed. Moreover, it objected to the intervention of the government in the juridical system and employing it against their political opponents, and condemned the encouragement of violence, which reached a level that posed a threat to the political and civil components and the society at large.

Tunisia’s Popular Front coalition, which is made up of 12 leftist and nationalist political parties, called for the dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly, the formation of a caretaker committee to finish drafting the constitution, and the formation of a ‘national salvation’ government that offers an urgent program to address the political situations in Tunisia and supervise the soon-to-be presidency and parliament elections.

In this regard, Hamma Hammami, the general secretary of the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party made a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in which he stated, ‘Not only did the troika government fail to realize the demands of Tunisians, but also conspired against them and endorsed a number of resolutions that made the situation worse instead of solving it’. He also affirmed the support of the Popular Front Coalition to Tamarud and its readiness to fully participate in all the popular youth initiatives and movements so long they are peaceful and fight Ennahda attempts to take over the Tunisian revolution.

A postponed revolution

In the middle of all the political conflicts, fears and hopes of Tunisians, the main question still to be answered is: will the fever of the Egyptian ‘Tamarud’ inflict Tunisia?

There are different factors that facilitated the current change in Egypt, the most important of which are: (i) the lack of communication between the government and opposition, (ii) and the insistence of the political and executive arms of the Muslim Brotherhood movement to enjoy the power of deciding the future of Egypt without taking the demands of the other components of the Egyptian society into account. Though all these were errors admitted by the ousted President Mohamed Morsi, his attempt came too late.

Due to the deepening economic and social crisis in Egypt and the failure of the government of the former Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to provide any concrete and material solutions to address the said issues, the anger and frustration of the public became momentous and uncontrollable.

Given the said circumstances, the opposition and civil society organizations utilized the anger of the people and succeeded in rallying tens of millions of Egyptians in squares and parks where protesters stationed themselves for days and nights while enduring difficult circumstances only to overthrow the rule of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Furthermore, the sweeping protest movement was embraced by the strong military institution as the latter decided to side with the people; hence any attempt to support the regime was doomed to failure. In contrast, the political game in Tunisia proved its maturity, as can be noted in the words of Rachid Ghannouchi, who highlighted the difference between the Tunisian army and the Egyptian army. He said: “The army ruled Egypt for sixty years whereas our national army remained distant from politics, therefore we highly respect and appreciate the professionalism and the commitment of our army to defend the national security of the country without involving the country’s politics.’ In fact, he stated on more than one occasion that his party never rehearsed totalitarianism as there are two other parties in the troika government, and he showed a great level of flexibility while discussing and addressing the disputed points in the Constitution in his hope to achieve consensus.

For example, he agreed not to insist on specifying that Islam would be the source of legislation in the Constitution. However, his opponents refuted these arguments and affirmed that this triangle partnership in ruling the country is just a cover because Ennahda Movement is the dominant party in the government. Besides, the governing party continues to ditch any reached agreement just as with the case of the chapters pertaining to the civility of the state, the political isolation law and the dissolution of the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution.

In a statement he made to Al-Sabah daily newspaper, the political analyst and research scholar Mustapha Tlili said: “It is a mistake to believe that the political situation in Egypt is different from that of Tunisia because Egypt had its protests on June 30 demanding for reforms while Tunisia called for the correction of the transitional phase a long time before.”

The only difference, however, according to observers, is that the political situation in Egypt facilitated the process of stirring up the public opinion while, at the same time, taking advantage of the maturity of politicians in the National Salvation Front, which encouraged the military institution to side with the people. In the case of Tunisia, the country witnessed a number of rebellious movements that all are geographically separated at all levels and sectors, such as the sectors of media and the juidicial system. Not to mention, thus far, the opposition could neither produce a unified program nor create a framework that allowed them to collaborate; hence it is far fetched to see them propose a real alternative that can correct the path.

Prime Minister Ali al-Areed dismissed the possibility of having the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia as he believes that ‘Tunisians are apt to agree with each other more.’ This statement furnishes the possibility that Ennahda has the intent to encompass all parties to reach a consensual formula that averts the repetition of the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia.   Nevertheless, the Tunisian youth may still have a different viewpoint.