Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Leader of Ennahda party to stand for parliamentary elections in Tunisia

Elections are expected to be held on October 6 with a presidential vote on November 17

Rached Ghannouchi, head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, casts his vote at a polling station for the municipal election in Tunis, Tunisia, May 6, 2018. Reuters
Rached Ghannouchi, head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, casts his vote at a polling station for the municipal election in Tunis, Tunisia, May 6, 2018. Reuters

Rached Ghannouchi, 78, the influential leader of Tunisia’s moderate religious Ennahda party, will stand in the next parliamentary elections in October.

Exiled in London for about two decades during the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Mr Ghannouchi has been a major force since Tunisia’s 2011 uprising but he has never run for any official ­ position.

He remains a dominant figure who critics say effectively controls the country with the secular-minded President Beji Caid Essebsi, 92. They are often called the “two sheikhs” in reference to their age.

“The decision to present Ghannouchi at the top of the party’s electoral list in Tunis is to have leaders of parties play a more important role at this crucial stage in the history of the democratic transition in Tunisia,” Ennahda party official Imed Khmiri said.

Mr Ghannouchi’s candidacy for a seat reinforces expectations that he is seeking to play a bigger role, possibly as prime minister or speaker of parliament, if his party wins the election.

Elections are expected to be held on October 6 with a presidential vote on November 17.

They will be the third set of polls in which Tunisians could vote freely after the 2011 revolution.

The parliamentary race is expected to be fought closely by Ennahda, the secular Tahya Tounes party of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, the Nidaa Tounes party led by Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the president’s son, and the Democratic Current party.

Political progress since the revolution has not been matched by economic advances.

Unemployment is about 15 per cent, up from 12 per cent in 2010, because of growth and low investment.

The country has also been hampered by security problems, including ISIS suicide bomb plots.

ISIS called for more attacks in the country in a rare propaganda video purportedly filmed by the militants in Tunisia last week.

It was released three weeks after a twin suicide attack against police in the capital Tunis, claimed by ISIS, killed two people.

The video showed armed men in balaclavas who pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

“Your soldiers and your sons in the land of Kairouan are doing well,” a man calling himself Abou Omar Al Tounsi said.

The holy city of Kairouan lies in central Tunisia.

Another militant using the name Abou Khaled Al Tounsi called for people to “sow terror” in Tunisia.

After 2011, the country experienced a rise in extremism and deadly attacks on soldiers, police, civilians and foreign tourists.

While security has improved in recent years, a state of emergency declared in 2015 is still in effect.

Updated: July 22, 2019 12:24 AM

SHARE

SHARE