When resignation is a virtue for Arab leaders

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

At times of political defeat and, more importantly popular and moral decline, it is always better to withdraw from the scene in order avoid further inevitable losses.

I am writing this article to suggest a plan of action for Tunisia's Ennahda ruling party. This is to ensure that it can avoid the fate of Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party.

In the considerably secular-colored and greatly leftist-influenced Tunisia, there is a definite possibility of a wide-ranging public uprising against the Islamist al-Nahda. Indeed, it has already begun.

Raed Omari

At the time of writing, it cannot be said that Ennahda party, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is overwhelmed by protesting crowds and the military. As we know, this happened to the Egyptian Brotherhood. Indications show that Ennahda will end up facing the same fate as the Egyptian Brotherhood if no immediate action is taken. By action, I mean compromise.

The Islamist Ennahda has declared itself a political, rather than parties such as Egypt's Justice and Freedom party, Libya’s Justice and Construction party and Jordan's Islamic Action Front. Thus, in accordance with the basics of politics such as: give and take, maneuvering and compromise, it is required to take decisive steps to alleviate public anger.

In order to remove any suspicion surrounding their affiliation with the totalitarian Muslim Brotherhood, these Islamist-oriented parties have presented themselves as independent opposition powers, willing to engage with other political forces in the democratization process.

Or to phrase it slightly differently, they have pretended to give supremacy to politics over ideology so that they can appear inclusive and more open to political engagement with secular, liberal and leftist powers.

However, they have failed to end their ‘organic unity’ with the Brotherhood. Up until now they have received orders from its leaders and as a result they have distanced themselves from other political powers, including the Islamic centrist parties.

The unquestionable control of the Egyptian Brotherhood’s omniscient leader Mohammed Badie over the ousted Mohammad Mursi and that of Ennahda leader Rachid al-Ghannouchi over Tunisia's Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, is a mere example of how self-proclaimed independent parties have never truly been independent.

Ennahda’s dilemma

Now, back to Ennahda’s dilemma. There is little expectation that the 1989-established party would opt for immediate resignation.

For many members of Tunisia’s ruling party, there are fears that such a move would be interpreted as weakness or retreat but, with regards to politics principles, it is a clever tactic aiming to preserve its existence.

Moreover, the resignation of the Islamist party during this time of tension followed by subsequent reengagement with other political forces would be viewed by the angry Tunisians and the increasingly popular Tamarud Tunisia campaign as a sacrifice.

History is full of examples of political leaders announcing their resignations in response to popular demand. One example is the resignation of late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s following defeat in the 1967 war against Israel, or as referred in Arab history as ‘Naksa’ (the day of the setback).

But, the problem with Ennahda party is that it continues to behave as if nothing serious is happening, advocating the same overconfident approach – or, more in my opinion, arrogant discourse.

Public uprisings

Ghannouchi reportedly underestimates the gradually-increasing public uprising against Ennahda party, ruling out a scenario in his country similar to the recent events leading to the ousting of Egypt's Islamist president Mursi.

"Some young dreamers may think that they can repeat in Tunisia what happened in Egypt, but their efforts would be wasted," said Ghannouchi, describing the recently-launched Tamarod (Rebellion) by Tunisian opposition activists.

However, such a scenario is nevertheless possible. In Egypt, where the Brotherhood has more supporters than Tunisia, the public uprising succeeded in achieving its target: ending the rule of the totalitarian Brotherhood.

In the considerably secular-colored and greatly leftist-influenced Tunisia, there is a definite possibility of a wide-ranging public uprising against the Islamist al-Nahda. Indeed, it has already begun.
Ennahda party could resign or compromise for its inability to handle the state’s affairs – most importantly, they must safeguard Tunisia’s security and prevent the possibility of the assassination of the leader of the nationalist Movement of the People party, Mohamed Brahmi, and leftwing politician Chokri Belaid.
To argue against such a rationale, one could cite former Islamist-oriented Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s resignation in February following the assassination of Belaid.
But, at the time, Jebali’s resignation was meant to contain the public anger caused by the assassination of the leftwing politician. It was not an admission of mistakes made under Ennahda rule.
Public anger towards Ennahda is growing in Tunis, with crowds seemingly entering a point of no return. It is up to the Islamist party to handle the situation through swift, smart and resourceful action before it is too late.

To say that the Egyptian revolution against the Brotherhood cannot be replicated in Tunisia is akin to burying one’s head in the sand. The Arab Spring uprisings have proven without a doubt how incidents in the Arab world are linked.

As a matter of fact, it is the 2011 Tunisian uprising that gave rise to the Egyptian, Yemeni, Libyan and Syrian revolutions. Moreover, this led to the emergence of popular movements in Jordan and other countries that demanded reforms.

This is a prime example of the domino effect. Decades-old al-Nahda should recognize that history repeats itself.

In conclusion, responding to the people, or making compromises with massive crowds, is not shameful nor is it a sign of weakness or political defeat. Rather it lays at the heart of responsible ruling and good governance principles.

After what happened in Egypt, the Islamist parties need to realize that inclusivism and relative participation are the real makings of lasting rule.


Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.