14 July 2013

Tunisia: Events in Egypt Inspire Tunisian Opposition

Tunis — Several thousand people protested in central Tunis on Saturday (July 13th) against the Egyptian army's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, AFP reported.

The demonstration was held by the ruling Islamist Ennahda party and came in the wake of calls by Tunisian opposition groups to organise their own push for change.

Waving the flags of both Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrators thronged the city centre and chanted slogans against the Tamarod movement, including "Down with military power!", "No to the force of arms, yes to the ballot box!" and "The people want Morsi back!"

Less than 24 hours after the dismissal of the Egyptian president, Tunisian opposition party Nidaa Tounes issued a statement "demanding the dissolution of the government and forming a government of national salvation".

The July 4th statement went on to urge a clear roadmap for elections, a commission to reform the constitution and the dissolution of the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution.

Youssef Weslati, analyst and political editor of Akher Khabar, told Magharebia that the opposition statement avoided dwelling on the events in Egypt "as if to stress that this escalation has nothing to do with what happened in Egypt".

Weslati said he thought it was drawing on the momentum of events in Egypt "without establishing any comparisons with it".

"For the second time in its history, Nidaa Tounes called for the dissolution of an institution with electoral legitimacy and that is the government. Prior to that, Nidaa Tounes called for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in October," he noted.

However, Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi has ruled out a repeat of the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia. Ghannouchi told Asharq al-Awsat on July 3rd that the ruling troika had made concessions.

"In order to avoid ideological polarisation and to achieve compatibility, we adopted a serious strategy of compromise, especially between the Islamist and modernist currents. This move spared our country the evils and dangers of division," Ghannouchi said.

Meanwhile, Tunisian youth activists have formed their own "Tamarod". According to the group's founders, they have been working for weeks to collect signatures from different governorates before the launch of mass protests aimed at overthrowing the Islamist-dominated government.

The movement has collected more than 250,000 signatures so far, but this is expected to increase in the coming days, according to a statement by Bashir Aid, an activist in Tamarod.

For his part, Tamarod spokesman Mohamed Bennour described the movement as popular, peaceful and independent of all political parties.

"We want to dissolve the Constituent Assembly because it squanders public funds, produces a mined constitution and establishes a state that is not civil and eliminates rights and freedoms," the activist said.

Public opinion varied between supporters of this movement and those dismissive of its objectives.

Walid bin Fahim, 25-years-old and a new graduate in finance, stressed that he did not wish to see a repeat of the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia, despite his dissatisfaction with the current situation.

He added that the real rebellion should be against violence and extremism, and to reach a national consensus in order to make this transition a success.

"I personally refuse revolt and protest against the current political actors in the country because this would undermine stability and exacerbate the crisis," commented Hela Hajji, a 31-year-old secretary. "However I am with putting pressure on them in order to expedite the formulation of the constitution and the holding of elections and law enforcement for everyone."

Maher Hejri, a 21-year-old university student, said, "We must wait a little. We were patient with them in the government for years. In a few more months, they will leave after elections are held. We do not need to make mistakes and incur further losses."

For his part, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, said in various press statements that a repeat of the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia was not possible. In his opinion, Tunisians tend to agree more, pointing out that the country was a democratic country that knows its potential and relies on the awareness of its youth, civil society and political parties when assessing the higher needs of the country.

"In Tunisia, there is consultation, dialogue and interaction with the aspirations of young people and responsiveness to them," Larayedh said.

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