On Sunday a Tunisian leftist party, known as Doustourna, called for the creation of a political coalition of leftist and center parties to oppose the ruling coalition currently in power.
The meeting brought together hundreds of Tunisians critical both of Ennahda, Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party, but also Ettakatol and the Congress for the Republic party (CPR), two secular center-left parties that have joined Ennahda at the helm of Tunisia’s of Constituent Assembly.
The coalition between Ettakatol, CPR, and Ennahda, often referred to as the “Troika,” forms an uncheckable voting bloc within the Constituent Assembly. There are pervasive anxieties amongst opposition members that their opinions, and the opinions of the constituencies they represent, will not betaken into consideration during the political negotiation to come.
“Today we are under a ferocious attack that aims to erase our identity,” said Naceur Yahya, a representative of Tunisian Workers’ Party (PTT), one of Tunisia’s communist parties. “There is a grave threat to the people’s identity – a threat to the people’s democracy. We need to form a united front in order to beat them,” he continued.
Iyed Dahmani, head of the Progressive Democratic Party’s (PDP) list in the Siliana electoral district and a current member of the Constituent Assembly, reiterated the fear that the dominance of the tripartite coalition would lead to the disenfranchisement of the opposition.
“We face a great challenge today. Members of the ‘Troika’ were oppressed by Ben Ali, and now they are oppressing others,” said Dahmani.
Some among the opposition cited the wave of protest movements that have recently swept the nation as evidence that many Tunisian’s feel excluded from the political process. Party representatives present at the conference responded critically to the unsympathetic, at times disparaging, remarks current Assembly members have recently directed at protestors.
Dahmani asserted that the Troika had sacrificed its legitimacy through its condemnation of the demonstrators participating in the sit-in at Bardo – the headquarters of the Constituent Assembly.
Dahmani stated, “These are figures that we have defended, and they thank us by telling our people that we are conspiring against our own country. Did the martyrs die so that Jebali [Ennahda’s candidate for the Prime Minister's office] can assign judges and control the judiciary like Ben Ali did? Did martyrs die for the persistence of the old regime?”
Dahmani expressed his belief that the protestors outside the Constituent Assembly are the only guarantee that the ambitions of the revolution would not be forgotten.
“We would have not been able to succeed if it wasn’t for the vigilance of the Bardo protestors and civil society,” he said.
Participatants at the event also cited the failure of leftist, and center-leftist, parties to organize a unified front as a contributing factor in the sweeping success of Ennahda in the October 23rd elections. Ennahda’s superior coordination and organization resulted in their winning over 40% of the available seats in the Constituent Assembly.
Momen Belaness, from the Tunisian Communist Workers Party (POCT) reiterated the importance of unity among the opposition, saying, “Our strength will lie in our unity and in a strong relationship with the people. Our maturity lies in our ability to find common ground no matter how different we can be and form a united front.”
Jawher Ben Mabrek, a representative from Doustourna, echoed Belaness’s sentiments on the importance of unambiguous dialogue with the people.
“Tunisians expect from us a clear message, a message that reassures them by uniting our forces, energy, and effort. We need to work on building a shared dream, a dream that will unite us,” he declared.
Ridah Zwaree, another member of the Doustourna network, asserted that it would be imperative for the organization to work from the ground up in rural areas.
“Ennahda’s victory was due to its ability to infiltrate deep in society. This infiltration was made easy by their use of tradition and religion to their favor. We need to find a new way to reach the core of society.”
Zwaree outlined the proposed strategy for the new coalition of the opposition, involving the inversion of the top-down policy-creation method employed by the former regime. He proposed creating a committee structure that would allow local constituencies to relay policy suggestions to party decision makers, allowing parties to base their programs on the demands of Tunsia’s often-marginalized rural constituency.
“We need to review the work that needs to be done. Islam can be democratic and the political left can be democratic. A democratic plan of action is not limited to the center parties. This meeting aims at offering a pragmatic plan of action, not political equivocation,” Zwaree said.
Sadok Belaid, former dean of the Faculty of Law at the Free University of Tunis, also emphasized the importance of reaching out to those communities that the current political process has overlooked, saying, “There about four million people who did not vote. Center and leftist parties have a vital task ahead of them, which is convincing those four million Tunisians to start caring about politics.”
“We no longer have the luxury to analyze reality; we need to transform it,” Belaid asserted.
Jawher Ben Mabrek announced that a national seminar will be held in February to form a common program and platform.
Written in collaboration with Charles Baeder.