Free Patriotic Union (UPL) president Slim Riahi gave a wide-ranging interview to Al Chourouk in which he targets Ennahda as his chief political opponent and discusses the ban on political advertising. Here are the highlights.
In response to questions over the unknown and, some say, suspicious source of his party’s finances, Riahi showed readiness to unveil the party’s financial file, stressing that UPL’s money comes from his personal funds and from his business partners in Libya, Dubai, and Britain.
UPL has presented 32 lists for the elections of the constituent assembly and has 50,000 members. It is present in 150 districts and plans to cover all districts by the end of September.
Riahi argued that providing free transportation for supporters to attend party activities is a reasonable thing and not a sign of political bribery. He stressed that the party is serious about distinguishing between opportunists and honest supporters in the party by choosing the right people to join the party. It is open to volunteers, professionals, and recent graduates. The party tries to be non-partisan and is open to people from all walks of life and with different ideologies.
Riahi expressed a big concern about Ennahda movement, which he considers a true rival. He also directed criticism at parties formed before January 14th for pretending to be heirs to power when they cohabited with Ben Ali corrupt regime. He dismisses allegations that UPL is a mere advertising phenomenon. He describes UPL as a pragmatic political party with a serious economic program that represents Tunisian society with centrist and moderate ideas, whose Tunisian identity and its Arab and Islamic reference cannot be questioned.
On the economic model adopted, Mr. Riahi says the state has an obligation to its underprivileged citizens in key sectors such as education and health care, aligning with social liberal ideals.
He denied allegations of his relations to Gaddafi’s sons and the dismantled RCD.
As for Ennahda, he thinks it carries out a dangerous double discourse. He refuses to work with it as long as it does not change its discourse and claims to speak in the name of Tunisian Islam. He condemns some parties who have jumped to work with Ennahda, saying he prefers to work with parties that are transparent and honest. He warns that if Ennahda manages to win most seats in the constituent assembly then Tunisia will fall into a new one-party dictatorship that would decide the future of the country in the next decade. He supports a referendum that will limit the powers of the constituent assembly and its duration, stressing the national consensus on Tunisia’s constitutional principles of basic human rights. He calls the electorate to be vigilant, as 52% of it is still undecided and a party could still sieze a majority in the constituent assembly.
On political advertising, Mr. Riahi thinks that raising this question at this specific moment was a way of restraining his party. He blames the Independent High Authority for the Election (ISIE) for creating the political advertising ban, which he considers unconstitutional. The UPL has filed a lawsuit against the ban.
He accuses ISIE for taking this measure of banning adverts to serve the interests of other parties, especially Ennahda, because according to him it is the only party that does not use advertising.
On political advertising creating a rift between financially strong and weak parties, Mr. Riahi thinks that Tunisians are smart enough not to be fooled by a simple advert. He stated that Tunisia needs courageous politicians who can tell the truth and leave the dictatorial past of the country behind. He is hopeful the October 23rd elections will change the face of Tunisia and warns about political parties using religion to get to power, which he considers as a threat to democracy.
Riahi claims he would not take any political position at the moment and that he would support the people who actually made the revolution. He promised that the UPL would create a surprise during the October 23rd elections.
Source: Al Chourouk