Tunisia: islamist ennahda is once again the strongest party

Five years after the flight of the autocrat ben ali, all the factors that triggered the uprisings have taken a turn for the worse

The ruling party nidaa tounes is imploding, members are leaving the rally party, whose most prominent member and party founder is the aged president beji caid essebsi (89).

Essebsi wanted to install his son as successor to the post of party leader. But this is only one reason for the failure of the secular anti-ennahda party, where two camps have always been opposed to each other. The stronger is "closely linked to the party’s backers from the time of ben ali’s ouster" (arnold hottinger).

This means that the coalition partner, the islamist ennahda, is once again the strongest political force in tunisia. The fact that 60 percent of young tunisians boycotted the presidential election two years ago is an indication that young people are not necessarily satisfied with the country’s development, although the head of ennahda, rached ghannouchi, speaks of a successful continuation of the revolution:

The revolutionary path is successful and we are now beginning the sixth year. Tunisia has not only preserved the revolution, it has turned it into a democracy – in a tough region of the world.

Such celebratory sentences for the international media are easy for ghannouchi to say. Parts of civil society, which is eminently important in tunisia, are waiting for other sentences that are related to concrete problems. For example, on the revision that makes clear where he stands in the homophobia debate.

"Ghannouchi should clearly and loudly declare that islam has never been homophobic, which the whole world knows but is silent about", is the demand made to it by civil society. The reason are attacks, including physical, against a homosexual academic and writer. The thesis is that there is nothing in the koran that is compatible with homophobia. One waits for ghannouchi’s clarifying word.

The fact that members of civil society are able to exert political prere, that they have taken liberties and displayed a political commitment that did not exist under ben ali is one of the not-too-great pluses that, five years after the former autocrat’s flight, have actually emerged as fruit from the "arab spring", which the country has roughed in, have emerged.

However, this is countered by another conclusion: the miserable situation of the youth. All of the factors that triggered the uprisings have had a "post-revolutionary phase" for the worse, reports radio france international. An excerpt:

The economic indicators are all red, with zero growth and unemployment above 15 percent and touching 32 percent among young people with university degrees. Tourism, which has sustained the tunisian economy and provided jobs, has undoubtedly been permanently damaged by last year’s attacks. Revenues fell more than 30 percent in 2015.

The two attacks in the spring (tunis: terrorist attack on the national museum) and in the summer of 2015 (departing britons: "heavy blow for tunisian tourism") on tourist targets was followed in november by an assassination attempt in the capital on the presidential guard. The leadership responded by stepping up the fight against terrorism (tunisia to introduce death penalty for terrorists and after attack: state of emergency in tunisia).

In a recent amnesty report one can read the collateral damage. The methods used to treat detainees, from torture to strange death traps, resemble the usages of the dark ages of autocracy, according to the human rights organization, which reports at least six torture traps resulting in death since 2011 and warns of a backlash.

Since the paris attacks in november and the spread of is militias in neighboring libya, another tunisian phenomenon has come back into focus: the number of young people who have joined the jihad for reasons that may also have to do with the unpromising situation in tunisia. Their total number is estimated at c.A. 6.000 estimated (tunisia: "world’s largest exporter of jihadists").

The accusation against ennahda is that it has done too little to counter hate preachers and the spread of salafist ideas. This is explained by the party’s fear of upsetting its own base by rejecting it too harshly. One of the questions is what the islamist party will now do to counter the now growing problem of salafism in north africa. The other will be how to get the country on its feet economically.

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