Ennahda and parliamentary allies jokey for rewards from government

The alliance of Ennahda, Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) and Karama (Dignity coalition) formed a joint parliamentary front, pushing other parties to form a new bloc to counter the pro-Islamist coalition.
Saturday 12/09/2020
Ennahda MPs listen to an address by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, during a parliament session in Tunis, on September 1, 2020
Ennahda MPs listen to an address by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, during a parliament session in Tunis, on September 1, 2020

TUNIS- The alliance of Ennahda, Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) and Karama (Dignity coalition) formed a unified parliamentary front, pushing several parliamentary blocs to hold talks about the possibility of forming their own alliance and creating new political balances within parliament.

Some parties even hinted at the potential birth of new fronts that will have an impact in the near future.

Zouhair Maghzaoui, secretary-general of the People’s Movement and a deputy for the Democratic Bloc, spoke on Thursday about coordination between several parliamentary blocs with the aim of forging a new coalition that may bring together more than 80 MPs.

This step would lead to the shaping of a different political landscape, especially that many MPs are looking to reposition themselves within parliament.

It is clear that the announced initiative came in quick response to the alliance between Ennahda, Qalb Tounes, and the Dignity Coalition ( in addition to 9 deputies of  the Mostaqbil party that are expected to join), comprising a relatively strong bloc with 98 seats.

Maghzaoui said that “the shifts within the Tunisian parliament imposed the need for coordination to form new alliances,” noting that “there are upcoming and urgent parliamentary tasks that will be presented soon. The first is the establishment of a Constitutional Court and the definition of the President’s relationship with the parliament.”

“We will announce, very soon, the details of (a) front that is the result of extensive collective efforts made by various members of parliament,” he told The Arab Weekly.

Maghzaoui also pointed out that discussions to form the front are in their advanced stages and will include the Democratic Bloc (composed of the Democratic Current and the Popular Movement), the National Bloc, the Reform bloc, Tahya Tounes and some independent MPs. However, the discussions exclude the Free Destourian party (PDL), headed by Abir Moussi, “because of differences”.

The new front will oppose the agendas of Islamist parties promoted by Ennahda and its allies.

“The idea was to confront Ennahda Front and its two allies, Al-Karama coalition and Qalb Tounes, because we want to push the electoral system further away from that group’s vision and perceptions so as to make sure no party controls decisions in the Parliament,” Maghzaoui said.

It seems that the Democratic Bloc has drawn the lessons of Ennahda’s attempts to pressure and blackmail its allies in the government of Elyes Fakhfakh, who resigned as prime minister in July. Ennahda’s contrived disagreements caused the implosion of the now-defunct coalition and quickly opened the door for a collective exit away from the short-lived experience of power.

The People’s Movement, the Democratic Current and –perhaps– the National Reform Bloc are also seeking to build a counter-force that stands up to the Islamist party and its allies.

The Democratic Bloc moved to the opposition, while Qalb Tounes joined the ruling coalition and lost its position as an opposition party. The competition may now be between the Democratic Bloc and the PDL over leading the opposition in parliament

Tunisian political analyst Sahbi Ben Frej noted that “the front can create new balances provided that its parties work in an atmosphere of consensus far from ideological affiliations.”

He added in a statement to The Arab Weekly that the process is taking place in the context of the war of positions on the parliamentary scene, after the formation of an opportunistic coalition between Ennahda with its allies. He considered the shift as very normal after the cabinet reshuffle in the government of Hichem Mechichi and the establishment of the Constitutional Court.

Ennahda, which has maintained its position in power, seeks to make a strong comeback by creating an important parliamentary front that would guarantee apparent government stability while preserving the position of Rached Ghannouchi, who narrowly survived a confidence vote during the last session.

This Ennahda-led hybrid coalition is dictated mainly by political interests, and its goal is to complete parliamentary agendas. Abdul Latif Aloui, a member of the Karama coalition, said that the alliance is coordinating within a front that includes 120 deputies, among them the deputies of Ennahda, Qalb Tounes, Karama and independents.”

Ennahda began the formation of this front a while ago but chose to prolong the process to prepare the ground for its announcement, since the now united trio engaged in hostile election rhetoric towards each other.

This alliance is considered a duplicate of the 2014 arrangement in which Ennahda joined forces with Nidaa Tounes. It aims to guarantee the interests of these parties at the level of the executive branch, specifically to impose certain appointments as a reward for its support for Mechichi’s government.