Ghannouchi urges dialogue, peaceful resistance to Tunisian ‘coup’ amid divisions within Ennahda

Ghannouchi urges dialogue, peaceful resistance to Tunisian ‘coup’ amid divisions within Ennahda
Tunisian Ennahda leader Rached El-Ghannouchi has called for a national dialogue but said that the people should ‘defend democracy’ if parliament is not restored.
3 min read
30 July, 2021
Ghannouchi called on Tunisians to 'defend democracy' [AFP]

Tunisian parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi has called for a return to democracy following President Kais Saied's power grab last Sunday.

In an interview with AFP on Thursday, he called for a national dialogue and said that the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party which he leads was willing to make "all concessions" for a return to democracy.

However, he also said that if no agreement was reached on the formation of a new government and the reopening of the legislature, Ennahda would call on Tunisians to "defend their democracy" through peaceful means.

Ghannouchi's comments to AFP came amid reports of internal divisions within the Ennahda movement regarding how to deal with Saied's suspension of parliament and sacking of former Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi – measures widely decried as a "coup".

 "We are trying to use all peaceful means - dialogue, negotiations, street pressure, pressure from organisations... internal and external pressure - to bring back democracy," he told AFP.

"We are ready to make all concessions so that democracy can return to Tunisia. The Tunisian constitution is more important than our staying in power. We are always ready for all concessions in the context of a return to democracy, and not the imposition of dictatorship and a coup d'etat."

Ghannouchi also said that he had no contact with Saied since the "coup".

"There is no dialogue today with the president nor with his advisers. But we think we need a national dialogue," he said.

The Ennahda leader also conceded that his movement had made "mistakes" recently, among them not succeeding in using its parliamentary presence to establish a constitutional court.

"There have been mistakes in the economic and social fields, and Ennahda bears a part of the responsibility, which corresponds to the part of power it has held.

"The parties in parliament made the mistake of not managing to establish a constitutional court... President Saied has used the absence of a constitutional court to monopolise the interpretation of the constitution and to make himself the constitutional court, and that's an error in which we all bear a part of the responsibility," he told AFP.


Peaceful resistance

Ghannouchi said that Saied's suspension of parliament should not exceed the 30 days specified for emergency measures in the Tunisian constitution, and that if there was no agreement on the return of parliament or the formation of government, the Tunisian people would have to "mobilise" against what he called Saied’s "coup d'etat".

"Since the start, we have called on the people to fight the coup d'etat with all peaceful means, and this resistance will continue with peaceful means.

If there is no agreement on the return of parliament, on the formation of a government and its presentation to parliament, the Tunisian street will undoubtedly mobilise and we will invite the Tunisian people to defend their democracy," he said.

"He [Saied] put locks on parliament, a tank at its door, that's a very serious error to say the least," Ghannouchi added.

Divisions within Ennahda

Also on Thursday, an anonymous source within the Ennahda movement told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that an emergency meeting of Ennahda's Shura (advisory) council would take place on Friday.

He added that the party’s executive committee had held a long session on Thursday night which carried on until the early hours of Friday morning.

On social media, divisions have appeared within the movement regarding the causes of Saied’s power grab and how to respond to ongoing developments and seek an end to the crisis Tunisia is facing.

Mohamed El-Qomani, a prominent leader from Ennahda, wrote an extended post on Facebook saying that the movement’s leadership had "no choice" but to apologise to the Tunisian people for mistakes it had made.

He said that Ennahda had to undergo "self-criticism" following Saied’s power grab.

Some members of the movement have called on Ghannouchi and other leaders to resign.

Agencies contributed to this report.