El-Amrani & Lindsay on Tunisia

Issandr El-Amrani and Ursula Lindsay have an excellent and exciting overview of the Tunisian elections at MERIP. The pair describe the performance and background of Nahdah, the major secular parties and the overall atmospherics of the poll and campaign. Your blogger has stated on this blog and elsewhere that while the Islamist tendency is important in Tunisia and elsewhere, it is worthwhile to pay attention to political trends outside that file. Even though an-Nahdah won a plurality of seats in the constituent assembly, it did not win a majority and the parties which won the rest are still important: an-Nahdah will not be able to act unilaterally and will before into coalitions and politics with other, mainly secular, parties as many observers have noted. El-Amrani and Lindsay do a terrific job at describing the main secular tendencies in the constituent assembly and why they performed the way they did and their attitudes and relationships with an-Nahdah. The conclusion:

The first post-Ben Ali government resulting from an election — Tunisia’s first free and fair one, at that — is likely to be composed of an Ennahda-CPR-Ettakatol alliance. With over 62 percent of seats in the constituent assembly, this coalition should be stable enough to provide a centrist consensus for both the constitution and government policy. Yet, even within this alliance, there are significant divergences over how to proceed with regard to the constitution and the mechanisms by which it will be decided, what kind of policies the interim government should (or has the legitimacy to) carry out, as well as negotiations over the government’s formation (with many secularists, for instance, weary of Ennahda’s interest in the education portfolio). The question of who will be Tunisia’s next president and whether the political system will be parliamentary (as Ennahda prefers) or semi-presidential (as CPR, Ettakatol and most other parties advocate) will also loom large over the next year. Reconciling these differences will not be easy, but at least, for the first time in its post-independence history, Tunisia has genuine politics.

They do not discuss the Tunisian Communist Workers Party (PCOT), which won just two seats, leaving market space open for others to cover that small party’s strategy and politics which are quite interesting if obscure (in fact, it seems most roundups omit the party because it won only two seats, which in some instances reflects writers’ ideological biases/ignorance (no names named) or, as is likely in this case, demands fo space and format and a careful consideration of the major power centers and what is most urgent for the reader; this blog has covered them as a matter of principle). Ettajdid (former communists; El-Amrani has written on some of their tendencies before) and PDM (mentioned in the piece) also deserve attention, having won seats and representing the left. Again, this blogger believe it is important to fill in the whole picture when it comes to the Arab countries that have seen uprisings. There are many more forces at work than just Islamist sects, as El-Amrani and Lindsay show here and others struggle to recognize.

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