Archive for the ‘Nationalism’ Category
Turkey: Chuck Press that offends the Palace into the Bosphorus!
Some time ago it was claimed that Turkey was an example of democratic, tolerant and pluralist Islamism. That the Erdogan governments had established a more open country – at least in comparison to the nationalist Atatürk parties and military regimes. Western leaders praised Erdogan’s pro-market policies. It was suggested that political Islam was evolving a home-grown democratic culture, with parallels to European Christian democracy.
How long ago this seems now!
The 2013 – 2014 protests in Taksim Gezi Park indicated that not everybody in Turkey admired or accepted the politics of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The crack down on media outlets associated with the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (whose politics have been critically examined on Tendance Coatesy, Gulen Movement, an Islamic Opus Dei?) perhaps marks the moment when Erdogan has passed beyond the threshold of authoritarianism towards – crazed – dictatorship.
Turkey’s President has drawn ridicule internationally for claiming that Islamic explorers discovered the Americas three centuries before Columbus, and for his Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Işı’s assertion that it was Muslims who first found that the Earth is round.
Erdogan’s Palace has equally drawn attention to himself, “It is reportedly larger than the White House, the Kremlin and Buckingham Palace: Turkey’s new presidential palace spreads over some 50 acres of forest land, boasts 1,000 rooms, an underground tunnel system, state-of-the-art anti-espionage technology and a blend of modernist and medieval architecture. The ornate palace reportedly cost more than $350 million.”
A third bridge across the Bosphorous has been named after the 16th century Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim – responsible for massacring tens of thousands of members of the liberal religious group the Alevis. Selim was in many ways a forerunner of today’s Islamist genociders (1)
Plans to teach the old Ottoman language (in a form of Arabic script) indicate that the country’s leader looks to its own imperial past, rather than to democracy.
Turkey has been accused of playing an ambiguous game in Syria, covertly supporting jihadists and other Islamist reactionaries.
Earlier this year the Turkish state restricted use of Twitter alleging it was “biased” and had been used for “systematic character assassination” of….Erdogan.
Now there is this.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) shows no signs of reigning Erdogan back from his actions.
Monday’s newspapers cover the government-orchestrated crackdown on local media figures and police officials across Turkey
The Anadolu Agency does not verify these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
On Monday, Turkish media outlets largely covered the government-orchestrated crackdown on local media figures and police officials in 13 provinces across Turkey.
All the people detained are alleged to have links to the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his so-called “Gulen movement.”
MILLIYET headlines “December 14 Operation,” and says the operation has been on Turkey’s agenda for a while. The total number of people in custody has risen to 25 since the crackdown began.
The daily said police took Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Turkey’s Zaman daily, into custody. There were some formal difficulties with detaining Dumanli initially, due to the lack of a necessary document.
Dumanli, who is a staunch critic of the government, dismissed all the allegations against him, and protested his innocence in a speech at the daily, before he was taken away by the police.
ZAMAN runs with the headline “Black Day for Democracy,” changing its logo and the whole front page into black, and says December 14 marked the worst day in Turkey’s history for freedom of speech.
The daily said the detainees were taken into custody after Parliament passed a law that enabled prosecutors to detain the people based on reasonable suspicion.
Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu said he has ordered the detention of 31 people on charges of forgery, fabricating evidence and forming an alleged crime syndicate to overthrow the government. Earlier, it was reported that the prosecutor’s office had given the order for 32 detentions, but Salihoglu revised down the figure to 31.
Hidayet Karaca, chairman of the Samanyolu Media Group, is another senior media figure who was detained earlier in the day.
Producer Salih Aslan and Director Engin Koc of a Samanyolu TV series were also taken into custody in Eskisehir province and sent to Istanbul, police said.
The front page of Monday’s HURRIYET reads, “First the Headline, Later Detention,” referring to the ZAMAN daily’s editor-in-chief holding an editorial meeting for Monday’s paper at 3 a.m., and then being taken into custody at midday.
The Zaman newspaper is alleged to be close to the so-called “Gulen movement.”
Turkish newspapers also covered Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s remarks about the wave of arrests across the country on Sunday.
VATAN quoted Davutoglu on its front page: “Those who infiltrated state institutions and wiretapped the president and prime minister must know that their actions have consequences.”
In December 2013, an anti-graft probe targeted several high-profile figures, including the sons of three former government ministers and leading Turkish businessmen.
The government then denounced the December probe as a “dirty plot” constructed by a “parallel structure,” an alleged group of bureaucrats embedded in the country’s institutions, including in the judiciary and the police.
Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained on charges of eavesdropping on Turkey’s top officials, disclosing highly-sensitive information, forming an organization to commit crimes, violating privacy, illegally seizing personal information and forgery of official documents.
(1) From Ottoman Persecution of the Alevis (Wikipedia).
“Typical persecution methods
From the early 16th century the Ottoman administration was specialized in “chasing” Qizilbāshes. This century was perhaps the most harsh century for the Alevis (Qizilbāshes). They were persecuted for both sympathizing with the Safavid struggle, but also because of their “heretical” beliefs. In order to capture Qizilbāshes the Ottoman state used several methods.
Being “Qizilbāsh” was a crime on its own and Qizilbāshes were kept under constant surveillance. Some of the most frequently used surveillance and persecution methods in the Ottoman Empire were:
- Persecution based on others’ reports / notifications.
- Open or secret persecution.
- By asking people who were regarded as more “credible” or “objective”, for example officials or Sunnis.
Typical punishment methods
The Ottomans also had different methods of punishment against Qizilbāshes. Most of the punishments took place by fabricating a reason to kill them.These false accusations were often led into the formal procedures to make them seem more realistic.In cases where the accused Qizilbāshes had many sympathizers or relatives, the Ottoman regime tried to avoid riots by not killing too many at a time.
Some of the most common punishments were:
- Expulsion: Many Qizilbāshs were expelled to Cyprus and cut off from their villages and families, but the Qizilbāshes who were halifes were executed immediately. The most typical displacement locations were Cyprus, Modon, Coroni, Budun(?) and Plovdiv.
- Imprisonment: Some were also jailed and then usually expelled to Cyprus to cut them off from their families.
- Forced labour: A second method of punishment was to send Qizilbāshs for forced labor on galleys (Kürek mahkumiyeti) where they should work as oarsmen.
- Drowning: Some Qizilbāshes was executed by being drowned in the Halys River (Kızılırmak)
- others were executed “on the spot”. Other times Qizilbāshswere executed with the sole purpose, to deter other Qizilbāshs and give them a “lesson”.
- Execution: This method, often termed siyaset or hakkından gelme in the Ottoman archives, was perhaps the most widely used method of punishment of Qizilbāshes.
- Stoning: Although stoning was normally only used against people who had committed adultery, this punishment method was also used on Qizilbāshes. There is an example of a Qizilbāsh named “Koyun Baba” who was stoned because of his faith.
Imperialist ‘adjuncts’ Says Spartacist League.
If ever there was a more bizarre example, and distasteful vile and foul, at that, of ‘dialectical’ excuses for genociders it would be hard to find.
“It goes without saying that we internationalist communists are die-hard enemies of the ultra-reactionary social and political program of ISIS, whose methods of rooting out “apostates” amount to mass slaughter. We condemn communal atrocities on all sides. ISIS is itself the imperialists’ creation, having emerged out of the intercommunal slaughter triggered by the U.S. occupation.”
But (there’s got to be a but..)
“But ISIS today is in battle against the local tools of U.S. imperialism, the main enemy of the world’s working people. A setback for the U.S. in Syria might give pause to Washington in its military adventures, including by encouraging opposition at home. Such opposition adds to the tinder that must be ignited in class struggle against the capitalist rulers who, in their quest for ever greater profits, beat down the workers, black people and immigrants.”
“We uphold the right of national self-determination for the Kurdish people, who are oppressed by the bourgeois regimes in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.”
However (there’s got to be a howeverr)
“However, in Iraq and Syria today as in Iraq after 2003, when the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan enrolled as adjuncts of the U.S. occupation, the nationalist parties have subordinated the struggle for Kurdish national rights to their role as imperialist proxies. Championing the Kurds in the current conflict can only mean lending support to imperialist plunder.”
“Protests called by Kurdish nationalist groups in Germany, Australia and elsewhere have backed U.S. airstrikes in Syria and demanded that the imperialists supply the Syrian Kurds with arms. These calls have been echoed by many reformist leftists around the world, giving credence to the “humanitarian” cover for the imperialist onslaught. Thus, the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France and some leaders of the Left Party in Germany (not to mention the bourgeois German Greens) have called on their respective capitalist governments to arm the Kurds in Kobani.”
“By selling their souls to the imperialists as well as to various regional bourgeois regimes, Kurdish leaders help perpetuate the divide-and-rule stratagems that inevitably inflame communal, national and religious tensions and serve to reinforce the oppression of the Kurdish masses.”
Yet all ends happily…..
“The goal of Marxists in the belly of the imperialist beast is to instill in the U.S. proletariat the understanding that it has the social power and historic interest to destroy capitalist-imperialist rule from within, through socialist revolution. To realize this task requires forging a revolutionary workers party committed to the struggle for workers rule over the entire planet.
From US ‘Tool Box’ Says Counterpunch.
Counterpunch published over the weekend these latest wise-guy revelations…
ISIS: the Useful Enemy
The dark force of ISIS is apparently an invincible and unstoppable war juggernaut that is mercilessly killing and conquering in pursuit of establishing an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In reality, however, it is not as out of control as it appears. It is, indeed, carefully controlled and managed by its creators and supporters, that is, by the United States and its allies in the regions—those who now pretend to have established a coalition to fight it!
Plumbing the depths Hossein-Zadeh tries to make political capital out of Kobane and the brave Kurds fighting there,
While the Kurdish city of Kobani in Northern Syria is being attacked by the disproportionately better armed forces of ISIS, and thousands of its besieged residents face certain mass killings if it falls, the forces of the “coalition to fight ISIS” are watching—in effect, playing a game of hide-and-seek, or perhaps trick-or-treat, with ISIS—as the outgunned and outmanned Kurdish forces are valiantly fighting to death against the attackers. Only occasionally the coalition forces carry out bombing missions that seem to be essentially theatrical, or just for the record.
The inaction or half-hearted action of the United States in the face of the preventable slaughter of the Syrian Kurds, which makes it complicit in the carnage, can be explained by its political horse-trading with Turkey in exchange for the Turks’ collaboration with the pursuit of its imperialistic interests in the region.
It is self-evidently true that the Islamist government of Turkey is viscerally hostile to the PKK and those in Syria allied to it. But Hossein-Zadeh does not propose any measures to alleviate their plight, or indeed express any solidarity with the people of Kobane.
How one could help them – leaving aside the inconvenient truth that the Peshmerga are actually there – are not his concern. He simply wallows in it.
The ‘argument behind all of this?
That, the US and its tentacles are at work. If you thought Seamus Milne’s Theory of why the USA is against the ‘multi-polar world’ is half-baked read this:
The U.S. approach to ISIS would be better understood when it is viewed in the context of its overall objectives in the region—and beyond. That overriding objective, shared and reinforced by its client states, is to undermine or eliminate “the axis of resistance,” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and, to a lesser extent, Shia forces in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Achievement of this goal would also be achievement of another, even broader, goal: undermining Russia’s influence and alliances in the region and, by extension, in other parts of the world—for example, its critically important role within both the Shanghai Cooperation Council (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).
And one doubts if many would go as far as this
To intervene in order to achieve these goals, the U.S. and its allies need pretexts and/or enemies—even if it means inventing or manufacturing such enemies. Without ISIS, resumption of U.S. military operations in Iraq and extension of those operations into Syria would have been difficult to justify to the American people. A year or so ago, the Obama administration’s drive to attack Syria was thwarted by the opposition from the American people and, therefore, the U.S. congress. The rise of ISIS quickly turned that opposition to support.
Viewed in this light, ISIS can be seen as essentially another (newly manufactured) instrument in the tool-box of U.S. foreign policy, which includes “global terrorism,” the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s nuclear technology, Al-Qaeda, and many other radical Islamic groupings—all by-products of, or blowbacks to, imperialistic U.S. foreign policies.
Let us, generously, assume that this article is not the famous Hope-Tipping (Hat-tip Rosie) famous for saying the opposite of what everybody else believes (accusing”D H Lawrence of showing a neglect of “the consciousness of sexual relationship, the male and female element in life).
So it is not to strike a pose the author claims, “Just because everybody thinks that Isis is virulently anti-US means….that the US created it……”
No we will not claim this. Counterpunch has published extremely well-informed material on the origins of Isis in the Iraqi and Syrian Matrices.
Well, okay,l one that I can find quickly: The Rise of ISIS and the Origins of the New Middle East War Tariq Ali talking to Patrick Cockburn.
…..they come most immediately from al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was at the height of its influence in 2006 [and] 2007 when it was an element–but not the only element–in the Sunni resistance to a Shia government and the American occupation. Ideologically, it comes out of the Jihadi movement and actually its religious beliefs are not that much different from Saudi Wahhabism, the variant of the Islam which is effectively the state religion of Saudi Arabia with its denigration of Shia as heretics, [along with] Christians and Jews.
It’s just carrying these beliefs to a higher and more violent level but it’s very much in the context of the Jihadi movement. …. ISIS has a number of different kinds of support. It has support of the alienated Sunni community in Iraq and also in Syria.
That at least their victors, after all these people have been defeated – they were defeated in ’91 by the Americans, they were defeated again in 2003, they were marginalised, persecuted – so victory is important to them. I think also they appeal to jobless young men, I mean sometimes referred to as the underclass, but actually just the poor, poor young men.
One could develop further from this that the group has an internal totalitarian dynamic, a machine of “disciplining and punishing” grounded in Islamism, that represents,as Cockburn suggests, not a radical break with other forms of Islamism, but an extreme exaggeration of their repressive efforts to shape human beings according to Divine Law. Or, failing that to cage them within it.
We can discuss for a long time the geopolitics, the Invasion of Iraq, and at present, the Syrian civil war, the stand of Turkey’s government, that have favoured these developments.
The contradictions within the Iraqi Kurdish power and the various Kurdish movements (including their own Islamists) and the complex issue of the Kurdish movements, the PKK’s inspiring programme of egalitarian social measures, decentralised power, secular freedom and sexual equality would fill pages.
But the point now is to mobilise support for the Kurdish fighters against Isis/Islamic State.
All this is blown to the winds by Hossein’s ramblings. – more than typical of the contributions on the site.
Is this deliberate?
That the real wish is to pile all the misery of the beloved peoples of the Middle East on the ‘West’s’ back?
Who can be certain?
Counterpunch – just when you thought unpleasant conspiracy theorists had had enough.
On Sunday the Observer reported,
British jihadi fighters desperate to return home from Syria and Iraq are being issued with death threats by the leadership of Islamic State (Isis), the Observer has learned.
A source with extensive contacts among Syrian rebel groups said senior Isis figures were threatening Britons who were attempting to travel home. He said: “There are Britons who upon wanting to leave have been threatened with death, either directly or indirectly.”
It continued with the claim from former Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg
Begg said that groups had approached him to try to put pressure on the government to show leniency to disillusioned fighters returning. Recently, the government suggested British jihadis who went to fight in Iraq or Syria could be tried for treason.
He said that a lot of Britons were currently “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. He added: “There are a large number of people out there who want to come back. The number in January was around 30, that was the number given to me. That number has definitely increased since.”
This comes as calls grow for an amnesty for British people who have gone to Syria to fight for the Islamists.
The Huffington Post said,
Britain should set up an amnesty for disillusioned and frightened British jihadis who want to come home, a senior diplomatic expert has said, as more reports emerged of “stranded” Brits desperate to leave Islamic State or other radical groups.
Up to 100 are believed to be currently stranded in Turkey, fleeing the horrors of the Islamic State’s rampage through Syria in Iraq. But most fear to return to Britain, according to Rachel Briggs, director of Hostage UK, which works with the families of victims kidnapped overseas.
Briggs told Huffington Post UK that the British government should “establish a clearing house near the Syrian border in Turkey to process and return home scared and disillusioned British jihadis”.
“In support of this effort, it should run an information campaign within Syria to inform British ISIS members of their return options,” she continued. “This does not mean letting criminals off the hook; those guilty of crimes must be prosecuted on their return.
The article develops the theme,
Worried parents could be “de-facto negotiators” if helped more by the government, Briggs said, citing the case of Mehdi Hassan, 19 from Portsmouth, the latest British jihadi to be killed in Syria. His mother told the media after pictures of his body circulated on Twitter that the aspiring history student had been desperate to leave the Islamic State, despite his bombastic statements on social media.
“Mehdi was a loving boy with a good heart wishing to help Syrians,” the family said in a statement. “In recent months he had expressed the intention to return home but was worried about the repercussions. This is a tragedy and a lesson.”
These calls have drawn anger from right-wingers like Stephen Pollard.
In the Express today he rejects the idea saying that they deserve prosecution, “They are simply having to face the consequences of their actions. There’s a simply way for anyone to avoid prison for terrorism: don’t be a terrorist. And if you do become one but don’t like it: tough. You will pay for your actions.”
We can ignore this predictable outrage.
In the first instance, it is not a good idea to make policy, especially ones that involve the legal system, based on individual cases, particularly ones such as that of Hassan. The emotional charge is high, above all when claims have been made that he acted on his family’s report of wishes to leave the scene of mass murder.
Hasty measures taken to pick on suspected jihadists and efforts to impose what is in effect censorship and repression, and “counter-extremism” are not a good idea.
The fact is that there is an assault taking place in Kobani – where Hassan was killed – by the genocidal Isis against our Kurdish sisters and brothers .
A political campaign on the left to face up to the Islamists, and the political pool they have thriven in, expressing solidarity with those battling the jihadists , might have a deeper effects.
Campaigning against the murderous acts of the Syrian regime, not to mention wider Islamist (including Shiite) religious intolerance, would be part of such a move.,
This ia a long-term, long-haul, objective.
In the meantime on the issue of amnesty, there does not seem much concern about those oppressed by Isis/Islamic State expressed by those advocating an amnesty – or by Pollard.
Racehl Briggs’s proposals are summarised in more detail by the following,
We need a more nuanced approach to deal with the different levels of threat. Arrest and prosecute those who have committed a crime and set an example of those guilty of the most heinous offences. Work proactively to bring back those who are scared and disillusioned, so they come back with us and on our terms. Turn the stories of returned foreign fighters into ammunition against ISIS. And offer those capable of reintegration the support they and their families need to get back on their feet and become productive members of society.
The issue of who has been a criminal is a hard one.
How exactly this should be determined, how they would be prosecuted and how they can be distinguished from the “scared and disillusioned” is left unclear.
The example of ‘rehabilitation’ in some European countries are marginal, covering a handful of people.
More significantly the number of jihadists going from Europe including Britain, to kill in Syria has not notably decreased as news about the nature of Isis/Islamic State has become widely known.
Battling in a Holy War and murdering infidels does not seem attractive.
Some of these foreign fighters are reported to have participated in the worst atrocities.
Some cases are certain, as in the Western hostages tortured and murdered by the Islamists.
There is this in particular,
Mr Foley spent much of his time in captivity being guarded by three militants with British accents, whom the hostages nicknamed “The Beatles”. The group apparently took pleasure in abusing their captives, telling them they had been “naughty”. For a time, Mr Foley and others were held in a basement beneath a children’s hospital in Aleppo, before their captors joined up with Isis and moved their hostages to Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, as Isis calls itself.
An International War Crimes Tribunal is perhaps the best way of dealing with those who have committed atrocities in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.
In the meantime there is no reason for any special pleading on behalf of “young enthusiasts” who join groups that commit acts of torture and genocide.
Perhaps much more significant in this media discussion is the underlying idea that somehow “British” jihadists should get special treatment.
This might be described as the “Western saviour complex”, except that those being saved are “our” (repentant) jihadis.
Assed Baig, the ‘controversial’ journalist who uses such phrases freely, and who received a window on Channel Four last night to air his opinion that Muslims in Britain are uniquely excluded and their religion and beliefs patronised and oppressed, would no doubt be opposed to any such favours from the Colonial British State.
Tunisia: Nidaa Tounes Beats Islamists.
Tunisia’s Ennahda party, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolts, conceded defeat on Monday in elections that are set to make its main secular rival the strongest force in parliament.
Official results from Sunday’s elections – the second parliamentary vote since Tunisians set off uprisings across much of the Arab World by overthrowing autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali – were still to be announced.
But a senior official at Ennahda, which ruled in a coalition until it was forced to make way for a caretaker government during a political crisis at the start of this year, acknowledged defeat by the secular Nidaa Tounes party.
We have accepted this result, and congratulate the winner Nidaa Tounes,” the official, Lotfi Zitoun, told Reuters. However, he repeated the party’s call for a new coalition including Ennahda. “We are calling once again for the formation of a unity government in the interest of the country.”
Earlier, a party source said preliminary tallies showed the secular party had won 80 seats in the 217-member assembly, ahead of 67 secured by Ennahda.
These are some percentage figures.
Nidaa Tounes 38.24% = 83 seats Ennahdha: 31.33% = 68 seats Free Patriotic Union (run by rich businessman and Africa football club owner Slim Riahi), : 7.83% = 17 Seats Popular Front (the left bloc): 5.25% = 12 seats Afek Tounes: 2.3% = 5 seats Congress for the Republic: 1.84% = 4 seats The Initiative: 1.84% = 4 seats
Le Monde reports,
The Islamist party knew he would see a decline in popularity but had not imagined such a setback. Triumphantly elected in 2011, when the first free elections were held after the fall of Ben Ali, the movement had two difficult years in government, marked by economic failure, political assassinations and a rise in terrorism.
On Sunday, voters did not hesitate to say they had voted Ennahda in 2011 and had been then disappointed. So that they had decided to turn to Nidaa Tounès. “We need people who can make the country move forward “, noted a resident of Rafraf, small coastal town in the north, attracted as were many voters by the figure of Beji Caid Essebsi, a former prime minister and leader of the transitional government after the revolution.
While British commentators like the Guardian’s Seumas Milne had described Ennahda as “progressive” and “centre left” critics from Tunisia’s important secular left and labour movement had accused it of harbouring a hard-line Islamist wing, and practising neo-liberal economics.
The assassination of the left leader Chokri Belaïd (February 2013) indicated the existence of a far-right Islamist current prepared to use violence against the progressive movement. It as a key moment in defining the difference between Islamist reaction – including that of Ennahda – and the Tunisian left (see: Tunisie : Le mouvement ouvrier à la croisée des chemins.). At one point it looked as if the fringes of the party would work with the religious hard-liners and establish Islamic ‘mini-states’ based on the Sharia.
This did not happen.
The Parliamentary Islamists recoiled from the terrorism of the Salafist inspired street fighters.
All Tunisian elected parties have since accepted a new (2014) Constitution, unique in the Arab world, which establishes a framework for open decentralised government, promotes gender equality and accepts freedom of religion (that is the right not to be a Muslim), although restricts attacks on faith.
Nidaa Tounes (the حركة نداء تونس Nidā’ Tūnis, French: Appel de la Tunisie, Call of Tunisia), is a secular party, or as Wikipedia calls it “secularist”. “founded by the former prime minister Beji Caid el Sebsi after the post-revolution 2011 elections. It describes itself as a “modernist” party.”
In this context modernist means that the party is dedicated to democracy, gender equality, social openness, and is not prepared to allow movements imposing Islamic rules on daily life. Economic development is seen as a condition of progress.
“The party has patched together former members of ousted president Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, secular leftists, progressive liberals and Destourians (followers of Tunisia’s “founder” Habib Bourguiba). In addition, the party has the support of many members of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) and the national employers’ union, UTICA. They believe that Tunisia’s secular forces have to unite to counter the dominance of the Islamist Ennahda Movement.”
Nidaa Tounes’ promises increased growth and a reduction in unemployment (currently at 15,20%).
It is believed that the party’s criticisms of the “instrumentalisation” of Islam, experienced candidates (regardless of their Destourian past), and its call for “sécurité et de la stabilité” accounts for its successes.
To their left with 17 seats the Popular Front has achieved Parliamentary representation. It suffered from leftist in-fighting, and the alliance of some trade unionists with Nidaa Tounes. Nevertheless it also remains linked to the left-wing of the powerful Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT).
It is believed that the UGTT and Tunisia’s strong civil society have helped hinder the growth of an Islamist anti-democratic movement.
Nevertheless over 2,400 Tunisian citizens (out of a population of 10,89 million) have joined the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
It is expected that very different social conflicts will result from any attempt by the probable national unity government that the elections are likely to create (led by Nidaa Tounes) to tie a ‘modernising’ economic agenda to neo-liberal policies. Calling themselves “technocrats” is an obvious attempt by politicians to deflect opposition to unpopular measures which could include further austerity.
For the moment minds are concentrated on the defeat of Ennahda.
There are inevitable charges of – marginal – electoral malpractice.
But some things stand out: watching the images of voting in Tunis on the (UK) telly news stations today you could have been excused for simply thinking how ordinary the Tunisians looked – democratic, calm, modern people.