Although ISIE’s official results concerning Sunday’s Constituent Assembly elections still continue to trickle in, it is clear that Ennahda has ascended to the winner’s seat. In fact, the only party that has earned more seats than Ennahda in any of Tunisia’s districts revealed thus far is the wild card Al Aridha Chaabia (the People’s Petition), which won three seats over Ennahda’s two in Sidi Bouzid. Despite the fact that the results are only partial, Ennahda members and supporters have already begun to celebrate victory, reflecting on a successful electoral campaign period and preparing for the future.
The atmosphere was festive and victorious when Tunisia Live paid a visit to Ennahda’s headquarters late last night, after ISIE’s press conference revealing that the party had won 13 more seats in the districts of Gabes, Medenine, Tataouine, and Zaghouan. “Today we are continuing the celebration that started on Sunday,” commented Soumeya Ghannouchi, daughter of Rached Ghannouchi — the figurehead of the party. “Tunisians, I believe, have chosen those parties who have stood by them and have struggled for freedom and democracy, and Ennahda is at the forefront of those parties,” she stated confidently.
Soumeya believes that Ennahda’s landslide triumph in the ballot booths on Sunday is due to its history of struggle and sacrifice for “…freedom and dignity for all Tunisians,” as well as the party’s willingness to cooperate with various political parties and civil associations in order to best serve the needs of Tunisian society. “Despite decades of repression and misinformation and fear-mongering, the people have seen through that, and they no longer want the politics of fear. They want politics that are not based on narrow partisan divisions and provoked ideological divisions, but on the urgent priorities facing our society. They want parties to work together, and Ennahda has been committed to that and has engaged in talks,” she explained.
Soumeya affirmed that Ennahda is committed to forming a national unity government, in which Tunisians of all political affiliations and social backgrounds are represented. “We are absolutely open to everyone, without any exclusion, and any alliance will be based on a shared, clear, economic, social, and political program,” she stated.
Loutfi Zaytoun, another prominent Ennahda member, corroborated these claims, asserting that Ennahda was prepared to collaborate with parties located on all positions of the political spectrum. When the PDP’s refusal to collaborate with Ennahda was brought up, Zaytoun’s response was frank, “We cannot do anything if they reject [to cooperate with us], but we are open to anyone who wants to work with us, whether they are in the new Constituent Assembly or not.”
As Tunisia’s projected political powerhouse — at least for the time being — the prominent question on many minds is: Where will the party’s aspirations take it next? According to Zaytoun, not to the presidential palace of Carthage. “Ennahda is not presenting a candidate for presidency,” he stated, point-blank.
On the other hand, when speaking to Tunisia Live late last night, Zaytoun confirmed that the party is, however, fielding a candidate for the position of Tunisia’s next prime minister. He explained that normally the majority political party receives the Prime Minister seat. In this case, Ennahda has identified Hamadi Jebali, the party’s Secretary General and spokesperson, for the position. In Zaytoun’s opinion, Jebali is the right man for the role because, “He is a very-well learned sperson. He is a very well-known engineer…and he was a very highly-observed political figure in the campaign.” Hailing from the coastal city of Sousse, Jebali served as editor-in-chief of Ennahda’s official weekly newspaper Al-Fajr in the 1990s, before Ben Ali’s regime prohibited its publishing and Jebeli was forced to serve eleven years in solitary confinement. He later became the party’s Secretary General and has been a prominent spokesperson throughout Ennahda’s campaign for the Constituent Assembly elections.
After giving statement after statement indicating that it is too early for speculation and that no definitive plans for the future have been reached, Ennahda’s proposed nomination of Jebali for the position of Prime Minister is one of the first clear indications of the party’s priorities as negotiations move forward.