Tunisia’s Secular Opposition Uniting Against Islamists

Five months after an Islamist-led coalition came to power in Tunisia, the country’s fractious opposition is working to unite and fight for a secular state.

Rally in Tunis
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Rally in Tunis

The numerous opposition parties in Tunisia’s parliament are merging into bigger blocs in hopes of mounting a challenge to the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda.

Ennahda and its coalition partners – the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol – won up most of the votes in the October 23 election that followed nine months after dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s ouster.

Several leftist and liberal groups have already announced they were planning to merge, such as the Ettajdid movement, the Labour Party and the Democratic Modernist Pole.

Another merger is in the works to bring together the Progressive Democratic Party, the centre-right liberal party Afek Tounes and the Republic Party.

A coalition of 11 small political parties created in the aftermath of last year’s January 14 revolution also called for uniting all “Destourians,” a word that stems from the Arabic for constitution.

Former Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi – the politician who steered last year’s transitional period and is staging a comeback at age 85 – has become a rallying point for those opposing theocracy.

“We’re sliding towards a theocratic regime, so now the opposition wants to regroup to balance two main forces: the Islamists who wants to implement Sharia and the liberals who defend a democratic, modern and secular state,” political analyst Mounir Charfi told AFP.

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“The Islamists – with Ennahda, Hizb Ettahrir (a non-registered party advocating the return of the caliphate) and the Salafist movement – are already a well-structured and disciplined force. A parallel force therefore needs to be created,” he said.

“These parties’ failure at the constituent assembly polls, the disappearance of some of them and the rise to power of an Ennahda-dominated government… have led to this streamlining,” Ahmed Manai, another analyst told AFP

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