Ennahda’s journey from a band of Islamist revolutionaries to a party dedicated to the strengthening of Tunisian democracy offers a rare glimpse at political possibility in the Middle East, others say. While the lessons from Tunisia are unique and not easily replicated in other parts of the region, Ennahda aims to establish a new tradition of “Muslim Democrats” – voters and politicians guided by their faith but committed to the political system of a pluralistic society.
“In our platform, we did not import a foreign model, but learned from the lessons of our neighbors in the region and particularly those in Europe,” says Abdulhamid Jalassi, Ennahda’s vice president for strategic planning.
Tunisia has just approved its fifth democratically mandated government in five years, adds Intissar Kherigi, a Tunisian-British researcher and PhD student at Sciences Po Paris in Comparative Political Sociology:
This latest change in government represents the best of Tunisia’s political culture – an uncanny ability to get political actors around the table to resolve problems through negotiation and dialogue, while respecting the democratic rules of the game.
However, it also represents the weaknesses of Tunisia’s transition – the need to find solutions that please everyone, which consequently prove difficult to implement. By including a broad spectrum of political parties, the new government creates a more stable support base, which potentially makes it easier to pass reforms. Including ministers from the national trade union, the UGTT, in particular is designed to draw the union in and persuade them to support the government’s reforms. The union has supported thousands of strikes over the past five years that have crippled the economy and resulted in huge losses. However, broadening the coalition also means making decision-making more complicated – reaching agreement among 41 members of a cabinet from five different parties with heterogeneous political ideologies will be a constant balancing act.