By Houda Trabelsi
Amid fresh episodes of post-election unrest, the Ennahda Movement leader sought to calm tempers and unveiled his vision for Tunisia.
The Islamist party will respect women’s rights and work to bridge the economic gap between inland and coastal areas, Rachid Ghannouchi said Friday (October 28th) at a Tunis press conference.
“We are proud that our movement’s women have won 42 out of 49 seats in the Constituent Assembly,” said Ghannouchi, whose party captured 41.47% of the votes in the October 23rd poll. It “confirms the actual realisation of the principle of gender parity,” he added.
The Ennahda leader reassured critics that the Islamist party would “not force anyone to wear Islamic dress” and would support “the right of every Tunisian man and woman to wear whatever they want and to live their lives the way they see suitable”.
“The role of the state is to protect people’s rights rather than confiscate them,” he said.
The Islamist party is committed to enhancing Tunisian women’s gains and boosting their participation in politics to prevent any relapse in the standing they have reached, Ghannouchi vowed. The party expects to form a new coalition government in the next few days. The government will include “veiled and unveiled” women alike, Ghannouchi said.
The party’s approach is based on “a modernist Islamic political reform based on dialogue”, Ghannouchi said, arguing that Islam is compatible with modernity.
On the question of national identity, the Ennahda leader reaffirmed Tunisia’s affiliation with the Maghreb and Arab and Islamic world. He also pledged to enhance ties with the European Union as a strategic partner and the United States as well as honour Tunisia’s obligations under international agreements.
Hamadi Jebali, Ennahda Secretary-General stressed the need “not to prolong the transitional period” in order to hasten the economic recovery and revive tourism. Ghannouchi unveiled plans to create new tourist projects, such as health tourism and a “path” for the revolution tourism, which would “start from Sidi Bouzid and move to other important landmarks along the January 14th revolution road”.
Ennahda’s landslide win in the Constituent Assembly vote was marred by acts of violence in Sidi Bouzid. Protests began last Thursday after the announcement of the official election results, prompting authorities to impose an overnight curfew. Party offices were set ablaze after nine candidates from Aridha Chaabia, led by Sidi Bouzid native Hachmi Hamdi, were disqualified due to campaign financing violations.
“We call for calm among the inhabitants of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the revolution which must be at the forefront of preserving the public good,” Ghannouchi said. “Sidi Bouzid will have priority, God willing, in the revolution projects.”
He alleged that the violence was provoked by forces linked to the disbanded ruling party.
According to Sidi Bouzid journalist Mourad Barhouni, it would be “unjust and ignorant” to link “the Aridha Chaabia’s victory to some conspiracy on the part of former RCD members”. The success of the party in Sidi Bouzid was due to Hamdi’s ability to “reach the hearts of poor Tunisians” in “the inland, marginalised and disadvantaged areas”.
“The people of Sidi Bouzid felt oppressed,” young woman Laila Mohammedi told Magharebia. “It’s not acceptable that a broad category of Tunisians, especially from Sidi Bouzid, be underestimated like that and be described as ‘ignorant’ because they chose Aridha Chaabia in the election.”
For his part, Hamdi called on Tunisian people to “resort to reason and go out in peaceful marches without violence”. He said that his party would file appeals against the Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) and “get back their lists”. The Aridha Chaabia leader also urged Ennahda to “put their hands together in order to build Tunisia”.