A proper reading of Tunisia’s elections

Ennahda’s acceptance of the election results was a tactic and did not reflect on the party’s support base

Diana Moukalled
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Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party admitted defeat in the recent parliamentary elections. It’s true that the group hasn’t lost much as it continues to have a one-third share in the Parliament but the group has certainly failed to secure new votes. Not only that, but other non-Islamist groups have been preferred over it and this means that Ennahda’s wide base, with religion as its pillar, suffers from a great crack.

Ennahda’s acceptance of the election results was a tactic and did not reflect on the party’s base, at least on the level of media outlets that embrace the group or via social networking websites where many Islamist segments, whether supporters, authors or zealots across the countries in which Muslim Brotherhood supporters spread, communicate.

It was on Twitter and Facebook that a fierce campaign was launched by some writers and Islamist activists. The campaign was launched via articles, comments and tweets summarizing the results of the Tunisian elections as alliances against Ennahda – alliances aimed at staging a coup to bring back the old system and aimed at handing over the country to a secular party close to ousted president Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali.

A proper reading here requires balanced rationalization, calmness and contemplation on how to build on the confusion which political Islam is going through in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Diana Moukalled

A proper reading here requires balanced rationalization, calmness and contemplation on how to build on the confusion which political Islam is going through in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Those thinking about the reasons Ennahda failed go beyond holding some of the previous regime symbols responsible for the elections’ results and say that despite the popular rejection of the Brotherhood there, the Muslim Brotherhood’s defeat in Tunisia was achieved via a real electoral path and not via a military coup as in Egypt.

However, analyzing the results of Tunisia’s elections requires a lot more than delight that an Islamist Brotherhood project was deterred or the mere progress of a party that carries liberal secular slogans marred by some contradictions.

The media, political and public opinion in the region is preoccupied in analyzing the Tunisian elections but it must not overlook two facts. The first one is that the secular experience of former President Habib Bourguiba is still deeply rooted in Tunisia’s society, intellect and legislation. The second one is that Tunisia is one of the countries exporting the greatest number of fighters to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. A recent tweet by a young Tunisian woman reflects this contradictory reality. The woman posted a map of Tunisia divided into two, one half labeled “Tunisia,” the other “Tunistan.” She called for establishing a separation barrier.

It’s between these two formulas that the new Tunisian experience will be.

Yes, the young woman’s blunt tweet is seen as an alarm bell to those who won the elections that the Tunisia that punished Islamists is the one and same Tunisia that sent them off to join ISIS.

A repeat of the elimination experience that the Brotherhood practiced will mean a repeat of the punishment that Tunisia knows how to unleash against anyone seeking to eliminate segments from it.

A repeat of the elimination experience that the Brotherhood practiced will mean a repeat of the punishment that Tunisia knows how to unleash against anyone seeking to eliminate segments from it.

Diana Moukalled



The need to grow the Bourguiban option and adapt it to the givens of the current time requires wisdom in practice and insight in experience.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014.

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Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

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