Three major secular opposition parties announced their decision to merge at a press conference held on Wednesday in downtown Tunis.
The parties, Afek Tounes, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), and the Republican Party (RP), were disappointed by their showing in October’s Constituent Assembly elections, in which the moderate Islamist party Ennahda took over 40% of available seats.
Since then, they have found themselves in the opposition to the ruling coalition of Ennahda and the secular parties CPR and Ettakatol, and have been trying to regroup and devise a new political strategy.
Maya Jribi, Secretary General of the PDP, expressed her hope that the new party would meet the expectations of Tunisia people.
Civil society organizations have been urging us to take this step, stated Jribi.
The speakers talked about their experience during the Constituent Assembly election and how it made them realize the vital need for a united party, a party, in the words of Slim Azzebi from the Republican Party, strong enough to win the upcoming electoral battle.”
Mohamed Louzir, a prominent figure of Afek Tounes, highlighted the importance of forming a political party and not a coalition because, he said, Democracy needs united people.”
After the lesson we learned from our participation in the Constituent Assembly election, this initiative comes as a pragmatic solution, added Louzir.
The secular opposition parties have been accused by many Tunisians of being out of touch with the concerns of ordinary citizens, and some analysts see this as a partial explanation for their results in the election.
Addressing such criticism, Mohamed Louzir stated, Success leads to criticism. I cannot deny that we might have made some mistakes. We lacked the financial resources to be able to reach to all the Tunisian regions and have ambassadors everywhere.
Speakers at the conference expressed hope that the new party could provide a check on the power of the ruling coalition, which some have seen as using the unclear mandate of the Constituent Assembly to consolidate its power.
Leaders of the now-joined parties have been calling since the election for centrist democratic political forces to unite, and some seem to have heeded that call.
Apart from the three political parties, the democratic union will also include prominent Tunisian political figures like Fathi Touzri and independents like Slah Eddine Zahaf, member of the Constituent Assembly and head of the Independent List Independent Voice in Sfax.
Another non-affiliated politician, Said Aidi, occupied the position of Minister of Employment and Vocational Training from January 27th 2011 till Jebali's cabinet took over, announced that he was intending to stay independent until the creation of this fusion.
I joined this union because I am convinced that this is the future of Tunisia, expressed Aidi.
Surprisingly, the Democratic Modernist Pole (PDM), a secular party that was also disappointed by its electoral showing and which has been quite vocal in media since, did not decide to merge into the new party. Jounaydi Abd Jawed, a representative of the party, said that the PDM is still looking for a more inclusive party that encompasses different political tendencies.
We are not looking for fusion as much as we are looking for a new solid project that will be able to change the political map in Tunisia, explained Abd Jawed who also said that the PDM is still looking for common ground with its counterparts.
The three merging parties are scheduled to meet up during the PDP's fifth Congress which will start on March 17th and last for three days, to choose the new name of the new party, draft its internal laws and elect its board.