Ennahdha signals shift in posture amid Tunisia political crisis

Largest force in Parliament shifts course, says president’s moves constitute opportunity for reform.

Saied's sudden announcement on July 25 appeared highly popular [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Ennahdha says it views President Kais Saied’s extraordinary measures as an opportunity to return the country to the democratic path, a shift in posture by Parliament’s largest party as the country’s political crisis rolls on.

In a series of shock moves, Saied late last month announced the sacking of the prime minister, the suspension of Parliament and the lifting of parliamentary immunity for the 217 lawmakers that make up Tunisia’s lower house.

Ennhadha initially responded by calling on its supporters to stage a sit-in outside the parliament building, barricaded by the Tunisian military which has so far shown unshakable fealty towards Saied – officially, the commander in chief of Tunisia’s armed forces. Ennahadha leader Rached Ghannouchi, who is parliament speaker, had repeatedly labelled the president’s moves a “coup”, a characterisation rejected by Saied.

But the party swiftly scaled back its criticism of Saied – owing in large part to the president’s popularity and large public gatherings celebrating his move across the country – urging its vast support base to avoid demonstrations to avoid an escalation.

On Wednesday, Ennhadha, which had been banned throughout much of the rule of Presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, went a step further, In a statement posted on Facebook, Ghannouchi softened his tone and described Saied’s invocation of emergency powers as an opportunity for reforms.

After years of mounting public anger at the main political parties, including Ennhadha, over economic stagnation, corruption and political paralysis, Saied’s sudden moves on July 25 appeared highly popular.

Within Ennahdha, Ghannouchi’s response to it has drawn growing concern and some senior figures as well as youth members have pushed for their veteran leader to step down.

The party’s highest body, the Shura Council, held a meeting on Wednesday evening that had been postponed at short notice on Saturday because of internal disputes.


Although Saied has faced no other significant opposition to his moves, which were supported by the army, his delay in announcing a new prime minister or a plan to resolve the crisis have raised concerns and unnerved some allies.

The powerful labour union, as well as Western allies France and the United States, have called on him to quickly announce a new government.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies