This conflict may bring Tunisia to the brink of a new revolution, experts are concerned.
The whole story has a rather ticklish aspect – Moncef Marzouki was elected as president by the parliament, where the majority of seats belong to representatives of An-Nahda. They chose his candidature because at that time, Mr. Marzouki, an active dissident under the former regime, seemed to them the right person to lead the formerly totalitarian state to democracy.
Now, President Marzouki is criticizing those who once helped him to occupy his current high post. He accuses the An-Nahda party of attempts to grab control over the country’s political life. This may bring Tunisia back to totalitarianism, the president is concerned.
At present, Islamists dominate not only in Tunisia’s parliament, but in the government as well.
President’s Marzouki’s criticism is aimed, first of all, against An-Nahda’s leader Rashid al-Ghannushi. Officially, Mr. Ghannushi does not occupy any post in the Tunisian government, but he is obviously trying to influence the country’s political life – particularly, the government’s personnel policy. Analysts are already starting to compare him with Tunisia’s former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted as a result of the revolution.
“Tunisia is experiencing a serious crisis of political power,” Russian expert in African affairs Dmitry Bondarenko is convinced:
“President Moncef Marzouki and his supporters believe that although Tunisia is and should remain a country where the most common religion is Islam, it should be a secular state. They don’t want region to interfere in politics. This is why Tunisian Islamists, who once backed Mr. Marzouki, are now becoming disappointed in him.”
Mr. Bondarenko seems to be too cautious to say that the conflict between secular politicians and Islamists in Tunisia will most likely heat up more and more. However, other analysts say this openly. Alexey Podtserob from the Institute of Oriental Studies, once Russia’s ambassador in Tunisia, says:
“It should have been expected that after the revolution, the events in Tunisia would develop under this scenario. At present, the positions of those politicians who want Tunisia be a secular state are quite strong. But the positions of the Islamists are strong as well.”
“Usually, when the time of parliamentary or presidential elections in a country comes, debates between political parties grow,” Mr. Podtserob continues. “But during the elections after the revolution in Tunisia, debates between the parties, on the contrary, calmed down. The reason was that at that time, the parties were united with a common task – to start building a new, democratic Tunisia. Now, it has turned out that various political groups have different ideas about what this new Tunisia should be.”
However, not only the Tunisian president is dissatisfied with the growing influence of the An-Nahda party. Rallies of protests against the influence of Islamists are now starting all over Tunisia. Incidentally, the place where An-Nahda’s opponents are most active is the same town of Sidi Bou Said, from where the Tunisian revolution of 2011 started.
The event which initiated the Tunisian revolution in January 2011 was a suicide of a greengrocer whose goods were confiscated because he allegedly had no license to sell them. The current rallies in Tunisia were not sparked by any similar incident. But they are caused by the same reason – Tunisia is still experiencing a number of deep social problems, and a large part of its population is living in poverty.
As mentioned above, the string of revolutions in the Arab world started in Tunisia. But, unlike the revolutions in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and the current events in Syria, there was practically no bloodshed during the Tunisian revolution, Now, Tunisia seems to be standing on the brink of a new revolution, which may be much less peaceful.