To defend his record before questioning, Ghannouchi seeks Turkish, Qatari outlets

Tunisian media criticise parliament speaker’s choice.
Wednesday 03/06/2020
A 2019 file picture of Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party in Tunis. (REUTERS)
A 2019 file picture of Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party in Tunis. (REUTERS)

TUNIS–Tunisian Parliament Speaker and head of the Islamist Ennahda party Rached Ghannouchi turned to Qatar’s Al Jazeera media and Turkey’s official Anatolia News Agency to respond to mounting criticism against him, including that he overstepped his role and prerogatives by venturing into foreign policy domains usually reserved for the president and prime minister.

Ghannouchi’s move drew a wave of backlash from Tunisian media a day before he was due to be questioned in parliament over his alleged Turkish connections and attempts to steer Tunisia’s Libya policy.

Local reporters argued that resorting to the national press would have been a more natural place for Ghannouchi to discuss domestic issues.

Tunisian activists argued on social media that Ghannouchi’s move reflected a condescending and demeaning attitude towards Tunisia’s political and media scene.

Some commentators wondered if Ghannouchi has aligned himself with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies in the region.

Observers of Tunisian affairs noted that Ghannouchi has little trust in Tunisian media, which he has always considered hostile, despite being given plenty of radio, TV and print space at home.

They said that turning to Turkish and Qatari media shows Ghannouchi’s inclination for Islamist outlets.

During his interviews with Al Jazeera and Anatolia News Agency, Ghannouchi took the opportunity to attack the majority of Tunisia’s political scene that disagrees with his conduct. He hinted at foreign ties being involved in a campaign against him and failed to offer an apology or send deescalating messages that could reduce the level of political tension in the country.

Ghannouchi blamed tensions between him and President Kais Saied on “allegations that suspicious local and foreign parties are trying to propagate.”

In his interviews, Ghannouchi put the focus on vague notions of of “consensus,” “understandings,” “common denominators” and other worn out terms.

In his statements to Anatolia, he denounced calls to dissolve parliament as “calls for chaos and resorting to street justice while neglecting real problems (in the country), especially after the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Such calls will remain outside the constitutional framework, and therefore objectively be met with the chaos that threatens the integrity of the state and the interests of the people,” Ghannouchi continued, adding that Tunisia “is facing unprecedented challenges, and we will only be able to meet these challenges with a government governed by real solidarity and synergy, and with a wide political belt behind it.”

Zouhair Hamdi, secretary-general of the Popular Current, responded that the “consensus” Ghannouchi often brings up when his party is in trouble is part of an old game that “no loner fools Tunisians.”

Hamdi told The Arab Weekly that Ghannouchi’s statements were a mere “tactic that no longer fools Tunisians, and that the word consensus that he utters remains a word that is fake and rejected,” as its purpose is to divert the public’s attention while he empowers his movement at home and waits for more favourable circumstances in the region.

Ghannouchi expressed regret that “some people are still haunted by delusional battles, and most of them are due to ideological visions and narrow interests.” He called on all parties to “raise the level of awareness about the threats to the country,” in reference to growing disagreements inside Tunisia’s coalition government, especially between Ennahda, the Democratic Current Party and the People’s Movement Party.

For his part, Hamdi insisted that Tunisia “needs a new national vision for rescue and construction that revises once and for all the so-called ‘consensus’ course of action, for it is not possible to build a real national project that fulfils the aspirations of Tunisians by concocting a coalition between incompatible groups, and with an Islamist movement whose loyalty is to foreign forces and not to the country.”