The independent body that supervised the Tunisian elections officially proclaimed the results obtained at the polls on 6 October, in which the Renaissance party, Ennahda, obtained 52 of the 217 seats that make up the Tunisian parliament, when it needs 109 seats to be able to govern.
Wielding a legitimacy derived from these results, Ennahda’s apparatus firmly argues that constitutional and democratic principles give them the right to form a government, under the leadership of Rachid Ghanuchi. So far, however, they have found no partners willing to join a coalition except the radicals of Al Karama, who have 21 parliamentary seats.
Both the centre-left Democratic Current and the pan-Arab nationalist People’s Movement, with 22 and 16 seats respectively, rejected Ennahda’s proposals as unacceptable. For its part, Ennahda ruled out allying with Qalb Tounes, led by businessman Nabil Karoui -who was arrested at the end of August on charges of money laundering and tax evasion- and who has 38 seats in parliament, and also rejected Abir Moussi’s 17-seat Free Destourian Party, which pursues the banning of Ennahda, while the Tahya Tounes party of former Prime Minister Youssef Chahed offered its 14 seats without any quid pro quo.
So Ennahda, which needs the support of at least five groups in parliament, sees the clock ticking towards the December deadline, when Tunisian President Kais Saied would be forced to intervene by entrusting the formation of government to another party 60 days after Ennahda was mandated to form a government, and ultimately to call new elections if it is not possible to establish a new government. It is probable that these new elections were characterised by a high abstention that could play in favour of Ennahda, to the detriment of the parties that have not lent themselves to getting involved in a coalition government. These uncertainties are arousing the concern of Tunisian social agents, and has led both the employers’ association of Industry, Commerce and Crafts, as well as the General Workers’ Union, to call for a new government to manage once and for all the social concern arising from the cataclysmic situation of the Tunisian economy, which suffers from a huge level of youth unemployment and inflation that has made the shopping basket an unaffordable luxury.
It is also causing nervousness among the Ennahda ranks, where the conflicting positions of those who defend clinging to an ardent nail to form government are surfacing, even at the cost of taking the risk of Tunisia falling into the patronage networks of Turkey, Qatar and Iran, or moving towards the democratic normalization of Tunisia; all this while the leadership of the party is in dispute given that Ghanouchi’s mandate ends in 2020. So far, Ennahda has shown prudence and pragmatism, largely as a conditioned response to the fate of his co-religionist Egyptian Mohammed Morsi shortly after becoming Egypt’s first elected president, and to the lacklustre memory of the very repression suffered in not too distant times. This would suggest that Ennahda’s apparatus has enough waist to adapt liquidly to the situation, as he demonstrated in October by giving his support to Saied in the second round of the elections.
The result of the calculation of risks and benefits that Ennahda is carrying out may well lead him to decide to be in direct tune with the voice of the street, opting for a de facto secularism, moderating his sectarian maximalism in order to reluctantly consolidate himself as a post-Islamist party, which makes a banner of commitment to social improvements, and the economic development of Tunisia, making good the thesis of the former reformist minister Naoufel Jammali.
This article was originally published in Spanish by Atalayar