Archive for the ‘Tunisia’ Category
Opponent of North African Left and Secularists.
Seumas Milne has a new job.
Guardian columnist Seumas Milne has been appointed as Labour Executive Director of Strategy and Communications. The appointment is considered controversial in Labour circles.
The appointment of Milne is the surest sign yet that Jeremy Corbyn will fill senior positions with hard left allies in an attempt to assert his dominance. Milne is considered one of the most left wing commentators in the media. He has worked as comment editor and labour editor for The Guardian, as well as writing for The Economist, and has spent 10 years as an executive member of the National Union of Journalists. He has also written several books, including one about the miners’ strike of the 1980s.
Milne will join the Labour leader’s office on the 26th October, next Monday, on leave from his position at The Guardian.
Much will be made of Milne’s various political stands, including, no doubt the time when he stood as a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ candidate in mock elections at his exclusive public school, Winchester College (information from an Old Wykehamist).
These are just two which make him unfit to represent Labour to an important section of the world left, his opposition to the North African left and support for their Islamist allies, and, as he showed with his reactionary anti-Charlie Hebdo rants, his hostility to secularists and lovers of freedom of expression everywhere.
The first issue is Tunisia:
Seumas Milne, Guardian Comments Editor, has described the Ennahda party (right-wing Islamists) as “progressive” and gave space to pro-Islamist views during his time as Comment Editor (for six years, 2001-7).
In October 2011 he said this (Guardian)
The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda (Ennahdha) won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence.
In January 2011 the Guardian published this – reflecting Milne’s enthusiasm.
We are building a Tunisia for all
Oddly this had happened in February that year, (BBC)
Police have cleared crowds of Tunisians who marched through the capital Tunis on Friday demanding the resignation of interim PM Mohammed Ghannouchi, a long-time ally of the ousted leader.
It was the biggest rally since Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia last month after 23 years in power, after being toppled by weeks of unrest.
Mr Ghannouchi’s interim government has promised elections by mid-July.
But crowds marched down Tunis’ main avenue chanting: “Ghannouchi leave.”
Later police fired tear gas and warning shots as they cleared the demonstrators from in front of the interior ministry .
Witnesses said one protester was injured when police fired warning shots at the crowd which some estimates said was 100,000-strong.
By the beginning of 2013 this was happening:
Milnes did not support the left-wing Tunisian Front Populaire. Or (presently ruling, left-of-centre secular party) at the head of a coalition with the Islamists and nationalist parties, Nidaa Tounès, of PM Habib Essid.
Instead he backed full-square the Muslim Brotherhood franchise, the pro-business, pro-liberal economics, Islamists of Ennahda.
The second issue is Charlie Hebdo.
The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. What happens there happens here tooNothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, still less on the Jewish victims singled out only for their religious and ethnic identity.
What has become brutally obvious in the past week, however, is the gulf that separates the official view of French state policy at home and abroad and how it is seen by many of the country’s Muslim citizens. That’s true in Britain too, of course. But what is hailed by white France as a colour-blind secularism that ensures equality for all is experienced by many Muslims as discrimination and denial of basic liberties.
What of Charlie?
Charlie Hebdo claims to be an “equal opportunities offender”, abusing all religions alike. The reality, as one of its former journalists put it, has been an “Islamophobic neurosis” that focused its racialised baiting on the most marginalised section of the population.
This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.
I will not dignify this with longer extracts but note this conclusion, and note it well,
Europeans are fortunate that terrorist outrages have been relatively rare. But a price has been paid in loss of freedoms, growing anti-semitism and rampant Islamophobia. So long as we allow this war to continue indefinitely, the threats will grow. In a globalised world, there’s no insulation. What happens there ends up happening here too.
In brief, the slaughter was terrible, but Charlie Hebdo was so awful that there was bound to be a “blowback”.
For in plain English: they (and one assumes the victimes at the Hyper-Cacher) had “it coming to them”.
The failure to back the left, and instead support the right, during the important events in Tunisia, and his misinterpretation of Charlie Hebdo’s satire, are enough to make Milne unsuitable to represent the Labour Party for important constituencies.
That is, on Tunisia he stands against the majority of the North African and European left, and to the overwhelming majority of the Francophone left which mourned the Paris slaughter in January this year.
He has already mightily annoyed Kate Godfrey (“Mr Corbyn, I have spent my life in conflict zones. Prior to becoming a Labour PPC I worked in Somalia, in Sudan, in Libya, in Algeria, in Lebanon when the Israelis were shelling the passes, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Georgia, in Azerbaijan and in the DRC”), who criticises a much wider field of misjudgment on international issues. ”
Tunisian Slaughter will Stop When Tunisia Stops Invading Middle East and Backing War on Terror: Stop the War Coalition.
Tunisians Demonstrate Against Terrorist Murders.
Latest news on the Tunisian atrocity:
The number of Britons killed in Friday’s beach massacre in Tunisia is now expected to pass 30, it has emerged, as hundreds of British police were deployed in one of the biggest counter-terror operations since the London bombings on 7 July 2005.
Informed sources said the eventual death toll could be even higher. So far only 15 Britons have been confirmed among the 38 dead in a process overseen by a British coroner whose job has been complicated because of the nature and location of the attack, and the numbers involved.
The assault is already the biggest loss of British life to terrorism since the 2005 London bombings in which a total of 56 people including the attackers were killed.
This is how the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) has reacted:
After terrorist atrocity in Tunisia it’s time to face facts: ISIS is a child of US-UK wars.
HERE IS a sense of shock and horror at the series of terror attacks which took place yesterday.
One can only condemn attacks which lead to the deaths of innocent people, whether praying in a mosque or lying on a beach.
The claiming of these actions by ISIS speaks of a strategy which is not just about fighting in the Middle East but about bringing the war into Europe.
ISIS explicitly stated with the Tunisia attacks that they were in response to members of the coalition at present bombing in Iraq and Syria.
While we can all condemn the attacks we need to also try to understand he reasons why they happen.
ISIS is the child of war, the creation of more than a decade of invasion, occupation and bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.
It’s brutality was forged those wars, funded by Saudi princes, facilitated by the Turkish government which allowed it to cross its borders, tacitly supported by Middle East despots.
Isis and other terrorist groups have grown as a result of the civil war in Syria, the bombing of Libya and the sectarian tensions fostered by the US in Iraq.
Support for it has also grown in western countries because of the way in which Muslims are treated here. The growth of Islamophobia means that Muslims are repeatedly under attack by government, police, media and the establishment.
The Prevent strategy in Britain is an attempt to criminalise, to spy on and to censor the Muslim community.
The vast majority of Muslims reject terrorism, but they are now being told that even if they are non violent extremists, this leads to violent extremism. The only Muslim acceptable to them are those who raise no criticism of government policy.
Racism and attacks on civil liberties will only serve to marginalise young Muslims.
All these policies are symptomatic of government failure in its various policies.
The war on terror has created more terrorism. The prevent strategy has not prevented anything but has bred resentment among Muslims.
These are the problems which need to be addressed if we are to stop the tragedies like those on Friday, and the daily tragedies which afflict so many people in the Middle East.
Source: Stop the War Coalition.
This bundle of mendacious confusion shows why no progressive should back the ‘Stop the War Coalition’.
Some “problems which need to be addressed” by the StWC.
- Whatever the ultimate causes of the growth of the Islamic State/Caliphate/Daesh, what are the StWC proposing to do to fight it?
- Is support for the Daesh in “western countries” a result of European ‘Islamophobia’? What kind of reaction to this feeling is joining a genocidal organisation that murders, rapes, and enslaves? What causal link is being made her? What kind of counterfactual conditions are explored? How many other victims of racism and Western ill-treatment turn to mass murder?
- Is Tunisia in the Middle East or in Europe? Is Tunisia bombing Iraq and Syria? As it is not, the wish to overthrow a democratic secular government looks a more probable reason for this attack than the fantasy offered by the StWC.
- The StWC shows not the slightest concern about the victims of these genociders, the martyrs slaughtered in Syria and Iraq, and women abused and treated as chattel, the people living under their totalitarian oppression.
- The War on Terror may be fundamentally flawed, but when will the StWC support the very real war carried on by the Kurdish people against Daesh?
The fact is that Tunisia and the Maghreb more widely faces a violent Islamist threat that predates the rise of Daesh.
Born in the Middle East at present, Daesh has a dynamic of its own: its ideology, backed by substantial finance and resources, has become a material force.
Whether or not this is “real” Quranic Islam or not is irrelevant.
Daesh is part of actually existing Islamism.
It has created a totalitarian prison, its own ‘ruling class’, grounded on religious tyranny, sexual apartheid, exploitation, and genocide.
As in this:
Its Western recruits and sympathisers are the modern equivalent of those complicit in the acts of the Second World War Einsatzgruppen.
There should be not the slightest tolerance shown to these criminals.
The immediate objective of progressives should be to back the democratic forces fighting them: in the first instance the Kurdish Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, the PYD and its armed wing.
Solidarity with our Sisters and Brothers Fighting the Islamist Murderers .
1530 Ministry of Health confirms 28 dead and 39 injured. Nationalities involved are French, German, Russian, Belgian and British.
1513 British, German and Belgian tourists are among the dead according to agency reports
1443 Among those transferred to hospital are British and Germans
1434 Second gunman captured by police
1415 Retired General Mokhtar Ben Nasser said: “This type of terrorist attack was expected and is intended to the tourist industry. Beji Caid Essebsi and Habib Essid to visit Sousse.
1400 Six Nationalities among dead according to Ministry of Interior.
Gunmen have attacked two tourist hotels in the Tunisian town of Sousse.
Reports claim that a man entered the hotel armed with a kalashnikov rifle and opened fire on tourists shortly before lunchtime.
Meanwhile another gunman opened fire at holidaymakers in another hotel adjacent to the shoreline resort.
Ministry of Interior spokesperson Mohamed Ali Alaroui confirmed that at least 27 people have killed.
At least one gunman has been killed, according to security sources cited by the Reuters news agency.
The other gunman has since been apprehended and is being held in police custody.
France has begun a terror investigation after a decapitated body was found at the scene of a suspected Islamist attack on a US-owned gas factory near the south-eastern city of Lyon.
One arrested man suspected to have rammed a car into the factory had been investigated over possible ties to Islamist radicals, officials said.President Francois Hollande said the aim was to blow up the factory
Officials say the decapitated person was a local businessman.
His head was found on a post at the gates to the Air Products gas factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, some 40km (25 miles) from Lyon.
Mr Hollande said the decapitated body had “inscriptions” on it. The French interior minister said: “A flag with Arabic writing on it was found at the scene”.
Fighters with the Islamic State, or ISIS, are holding at least 50 hostages inside a besieged hospital in the Syrian city of Kobani in the aftermath of Thursday’s attack on the Kurdish city, a Rudaw reporter inside the city has said. Rudaw
According to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and journalists on the ground, the death toll in Kobanê has reached 146.
The massacre carried out by ISIS gangs on Kobanê has left 146 mostly civilians, women and children, dead according to SOHR. 120 people injured in the suicide attacks in the town centre of Kobanê have died in hospital. 72 civilians were massacred in the Halnaj area of while the others were from the Maqtala neighbourhood. Of the 200 wounded some are still in critical condition and it is feared the death toll could rise.
The number of people who were executed in the village of Berx Botan located near the town of Serrin south of Kobanê has risen to 26, including children and women, while others were wounded too, some of them in critical situation.
This is the second-largest massacre perpetrated by ISIS gangs since the declaration of its alleged ‘caliphate’.
26 June 2015
Kurds and their friends around the world are coming out onto the streets to condemn the attacks by ISIS gangs on innocent civilians in Kobanê. The multiple attacks on 25 June have already claimed the lives of 146 people, mostly women and children and wounded over 200.
There have already been demonstrations in Copenhagen, Paris and Saarbrucken. Demonstrations in other major European cities are being planned after the Democratic Kurdish Society Congress of Europe made a declaration calling people to come out onto the streets to condemn, uncover and take a stand against ISIS and the powers behind them.
Many of the demonstrations are targeted at the Turkish state for its support of the ISIS gangs. Many sources are claiming that the ISIS gangs who perpetrated the massacre crossed over from the Turkey border into Rojava (Northern Syria) and were allowed passage by the Turkish state.
Our Sisters and Brothers Massacred by the Islamic State/ISIS.
According to reports from journalists in Kobane the multiple and co-ordinated attacks by ISIS gangs who crossed into the city from the Turkey border has left 42 people dead and 55 wounded.
22 civilians were massacred in the city centre and 55 were wounded while over 20 people were executed in their homes in the village of Berx Botan 30km to the south of Kobanê. There is no information about the 5 families kidnapped by the gangs to use as human shields.
The operation carried out against the attackers by by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Asayish (security) forces is ongoing. 11 gang members were killed in the Azadi square in the centre of Kobanê.
Claims that the ISIS gangs crossed over from Jarablus rather than the Turkey border have been refuted by the Kobanê Canton administration. There is no crossing from Jarablus into Kobanê because the bridge that connected the two areas was blown up by ISIS gangs recently.
A second attack was carried out later in the morning (5.15am) at Turkey’s Mursitpinar border gate to Kobane and a truck was blown up.
A demonstration is being held in London at 13.00 in front of the Turkish Embassy on Friday 26 June.
French Demonstration: Massacres commis par Daesh à Kobanê, avec le soutien de la Turquie. Friday 26 June 18h, Place de la République
“Tunisia anti-terror march kicks off World Social Forum. Activists from around the globe honour victims of museum attack last week that left 21 people, mostly tourists, dead.”
Sunday: A demonstration against terrorism is being organised after the bloody attack at the Bardo Museum. Tens of thousands of people and foreign dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande, are expected to participate.
Adapted from Libération.
People and organisations will gather from about 11:00 local time (1000 GMT) in Bab Saadoun. They will march to the front of the museum. This building, which houses an outstanding collection of mosaics, was the target of the March 18 attack that killed 22 people – 21 tourists and a policeman.
Prominent personalities, political figures and overseas guests will assemble at around 12:00 (11:00 GMT) with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi over a hundred metres along the outside of the museum prior to inaugurating a monument to the memory of the victims.
“We must now show our patriotism” said Minister of Tourism Salma Elloumi Rekik on national television. The attack was “a heavy blow (…) but this time did not kill us, he made us stronger,” she assured.
President Caid Essebsi called Wednesday on his countrymen to massively participate in the march “to express the strength of Tunisia” and “send a message abroad that Tunisia continues its fight against terrorism.”
Tunisia, the pioneer of the “Arab Spring”, despite its internal turmoil has completed its transition to democracy with elections in late 2014. But its stability could be threatened by the rise of Jihadist threat as well as the persistence of the economic and social problems that were the root of the 2011 revolution.
French President François Hollande will be present on the day that France holds the second round of the departmental (regional) elections. Polish and Palestinian presidents Bronislaw Komorowski and Mahmoud Abbas will take part in the march, as will Italian and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Matteo Renzi and the Spanish and Dutch Ministers of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo and Bert Koenders.
“From now on, everyone reacts after each terrorist attack as if the attack was carried out in their own country. This is new and it’s important, “said President Caid Essebsi to the French daily Ouest-France.
This march is reminiscent of the one organised in January by President Hollande after the attacks in Paris against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and a kosher supermarket.
The Islamist Ennahda party, the second political force in the country in the present coalition government, has called on supporters to participate in the march “to express the unity of Tunisians face this danger and their determination to defend their homeland (… ) preserve their freedom. “
The powerful trade union federation, the UGTT has also invited its members to attend “en masse”.
But the Popular Front ( Front populaire) the left coalition and main opposition party, announced that he would not participate. It accused ‘certain participants’ in the march of “hypocrisy” – a clear reference to Ennahda.
The spokesman of the Front, Hamma Hammami, said that the demonstration was “a way to cover up the issue of the responsibility (…) for the spread of terrorism.”
Many leftist policies accuse the Islamist party of having shown excessive tolerance towards the growing Jihadist groups when in power (late 2011-early 2014). They charge it with responsibility for, or complicity, in the murders in 2013 of two members of the Popular Front, Chokri Belaid Mohamed Brahmi.
Faced with these divisions, the daily La Presse spoke of “an absurd battle”, saying that “the world (…) expects that proves us to show that we deserve their backing, and the wave of solidarity that this event will demonstrate throughout today. “
The attack of March 18 was claimed by the Islamic State Group (EI). But the Tunisian Interior Ministry said the attack was led by a leader of the Falange Okba Ibn Nafaa, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda chased out by the army more than two years ago from in the mountains bordering Algeria.
The Bardo Museum, is preparing to resume normal activity. On Friday, it opened its doors to school pupils, students and members of delegations. It intends to open its doors to the public on Monday.
More on the Front Populaire’s position:
The Popular Front leader Mohamed Jmour said his party refuses to participate in the walk on Sunday, if the parties involved in terrorism are involved.
He added in a statement Friday that components of the old troika (previous government) refuse to this day to take responsibility for what has happened in Tunisia.
Mohamed Jmour also expressed also his refusal to participate in an event side by side with French leaders who are still not apologised, according to his statements, to the Tunisians for all the harm done to them during the period of the protectorate.
The Tunisian Parliament has come under attack, with lawmakers saying gunfire can be heard at the scene. Local reporters tweet militants entered the Bardo Museum through the parliament, taking several tourists hostage.
Militants dressed as soldiers are attacking the Tunisia Assembly, local journalists say. The parliament is located in Bardo Palace, which is also home to a national museum.
Several tourists have been taken hostage, according to Radio Mosaique FM.
Tunisian security forces have surrounded at least two militants believed to be holding hostages at a museum in the country’s parliament grounds.
Private radio station Radio Mosaique said that three men dressed in military-style clothing may have taken hostages inside the museum.
Latest news directly from Tunisia talks of around 20 Tourist hostages.
Un grand nombre de touristes ont été pris en otages par 3 ou 4 individus armés qui se sont présentés au musée en tenue militaire.
D’après les premiers faits rapportés il y aurait un certain nombre de blessés, voir même de morts, enregistrés suite au coups de feu tirés sur les tourristes qui venaient de descendre du bus qui les transportait au musée.
D’après les déclarations faites par un guide touristiques au correspondant de mosaïque fm sur place une vingtaine de touristes dont retenus en otages , vu qu’une centaine d’entre eux ont pu être évacués d’urgence par la porte arrière du musée dès que les premiers coups de feu ont été tirés.
Direct Info (Tunsia).
Des tirs ont été entendus au musée national, situé dans le même bâtiment que le Parlement ce mercredi.
There were unverified reports that a foreign tourist or tourists may have been taken hostage at the Bardo museum.
Shortly before, exchanges of gunfire were heard at Tunisia‘s parliament building, the country’s state news agency reported.
Parliamentary committees suspended their meetings as MPs were ordered to assemble in the main chamber, Islamist MP Monia Brahim told AFP.
A witness near the parliament told Reuters a large police presence was moving to evacuate the building.
The Bardo museum chronicles Tunisia’s history and includes one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics.
Tunisia has struggled with violence by Islamic extremists since overthrowing a dictator in 2011.
This does not come out of the blue,
The Ministry of Interior announced on Monday the arrest of 22 militants working in four alleged terrorist cells recruiting young Tunisians to fight in Libya. The ministry also announced an additional 10 other militants were also arrested while attempting to cross into Libya to join militant groups.
The two successful operations were led by the National Unity of Investigation for Terrorist Crimes.
According to the Ministry of Interior, the four cells discovered operating in Kairouan were responsible for recruiting young Tunisians, with a focus on targeting students to join militants in Libya. “This terrorist network is collaborating with dangerous Tunisian terrorists active in Libya, and working to supervise training camps with their counterparts from different countries,” a statement by the Ministry of Interior said.
The Ministry of Interior also stated it seized around ten thousand dinars and 200 Euros in cash, iPads, memory cards as well as mobile phones.
A known al Qaeda spokesman said in a voice recording broadcast today that the militant group was behind a deadly suicide attack at a Tunisian synagogue in April which killed 21 people, including 14 Germans.
It was the first direct claim of al Qaeda involvement in the blast near El Ghriba synagogue on the resort island of Djerba. German government ministers had earlier said there was evidence linking the blast to the militant network.
“This operation was carried out by al Qaeda network. A youth could not see his brothers in Palestine butchered and murdered…(while) he saw Jews cavorting in Djerba,” Sulaiman bu Ghaith said in the undated recording broadcast by Qatar-based al-Jazeera channel.
“So this spirit of jihad surged and he (the al Qaeda member) carried out this successful operation, may God accept it,” said bu Ghaith, who emerged as an al Qaeda spokesman after the September 11 attacks, which Washington blames on al Qaeda.
It was not clear when the tape was received or where bu Ghaith was speaking from. He has spoken about al Qaeda activities on Web sites and Middle Eastern news channels.
For many people in the world, including this Blog, Tunisia is a hero nation, and its people have shown their best side in recent years.
If we hear any Stop the War Coalition or SWP spokesperson opining on this unfolding tragedy – no doubt to say that Tunisia will be safe from Islamic killers if it stops invading the Middle East – we shall vomit.
Tunisia: Anti-Islamist Béji Caïd Essebsi, on Course to Win Presidency as Rival Moncef Marzouki Clings on.
Secularists Look Set to Win Tunisian Presidency.
The Guardian reports,
The anti-Islamist veteran Beji Caid Essebsi has claimed victory in Tunisia’s first free presidential election.
Tunisians took to the polls on Sunday for the leadership runoff vote, with many calling the ballot a landmark for democracy in the country where the Arab Spring was born.
Official results are not due until Monday evening but unofficial exit polls indicated that Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party had won 55% of the vote, with his rival, the incumbent Moncef Marzouki, on 45%.
Essebsi, 88, appeared before 2,000 supporters who gathered outside his campaign headquarters in the capital Tunis shouting “Long live Tunisia!” and thanked the voters.
However Le Monde states,
Le président sortant, Moncef Marzouki, refuse de reconnaître sa défaite.The outgoing President Moncef Marzouki has refused to accept defeat.
Preliminary results are now in (Tunisia Live):
“10:30 a.m.:Mourakiboun press conference: Preliminary Results Estimation: presidential candidate Beji Caid Essebsi has between 54.1% and 57% of votes, and candidate Moncef Marzouki has between 42.9% and 45.8% of the votes.”
During the campaign Essebsi refused to hold public debates with Marzouki, comparing his opponent to Le Pen and saying that Chirac did not engage in face-top-face exchanges with the leader of the Front National. He called Marouki an «extrémiste» baked by «salafistes jihadistes». (Libération)
His critics point to his period of office as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1981 to 1986 – that is under the Bourguiba (founding figure of an Independent Tunisia) regime, not, during its decades of rule noted for its democratic values. However, after the Jasmine Revolution, Essebsi oversaw the transition to democracy as Prime Minister of Tunisia from 27 February 2011 to 24 December 2011. He is the founder of the Nidaa Tounes party, a secular alternative to the Islamist Ennahda movement, which now has a majority in the Tunisian Parliament.
The BBC last night noted that Essebesi’s support is strongest amongst public sector workers, organised workers, and the intelligentsia – in contrast to the Islamists whose political heartland is in the poor rural south. The Corporation’s journalist observed that with this constituency, if elected President, the leader of Nidaa Tounes would find it hard to implement the “necessary” “reforms” demanded by the international – financial and economic – institutions.
In another important development, last week Tunisians learnt that jihadists who had rallied to the Caliphate and the Islamic State had claimed responsibility for two killings that had shaken the country last year, of Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi (Sidwaya).
Brahmi and Belaïd were leaders of socialist, Arab nationalist and secular parties.
Critics of the previous Ennahda-led government have long attacked the ‘moderate’ Islamists for complacency faced with violent Salafism and for their failure to bring anybody to justice for these murders.
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.