Ennahda’s Mourou announces exit from politics

“I think the country needs younger leaders,” he said.
Tuesday 26/05/2020
Abdelfattah Mourou, Tunisia’s interim parliamentary speaker and Islamist Ennahda Party politician as he submits his candidacy for presidential elections in the capital Tunis, last August. (AFP)
Abdelfattah Mourou, Tunisia’s interim parliamentary speaker and Islamist Ennahda Party politician as he submits his candidacy for presidential elections in the capital Tunis, last August. (AFP)

TUNIS –Abdelfattah Mourou, a co-founder of the Islamist Ennahda Movement and a former deputy speaker of the Tunisian parliament announced his decision to leave politics, during a local radio interview Tuesday.

“My decision has nothing to do with Ennahda. In fact, it is a personal decision that came following an assessment of the political life in the country. Besides, I feel that I am not concerned by the current political phase,” said Mourou.

In the statement, the former vice-president of Ennahdha noted that his refraining from tackling politics during media interventions for almost a year now was an indication of his desire to retire from politics.

“Today, I am 72 years old. I also believe that there will be change in Tunisia and I think that the country needs younger leaders,” he said, adding the he respects “the choice of voters during the 2019 presidential election.”

As Ennahda faces increasing leadership disputes, his remark about the country needing “younger leaders” is likely to be interpreted as aimed at Rached Ghannouchi, president of Ennahda and speaker of parliament, who is 78.

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied (R) shakes hands with Abdelfattah Mourou, then-deputy speaker at the Assembly of People’s Representatives in Tunis, last October. (Reuters)
Tunisia’s President Kais Saied (R) shakes hands with Abdelfattah Mourou, then-deputy speaker at the Assembly of People’s Representatives in Tunis, last October. (Reuters)

Mourou’s lacklustre participation in the last presidential race, last year, was disappointing for him and his party.  Two top contenders, Kais Saied, with neither a party nor strong campaign support, and media tycoon Nabil Karoui, in jail on charges of money laundering and tax evasion, defeated 24 other candidates, including Abdelfattah Mourou.

Despite his image as a colourful and urbane figure, Mourou had to deal, at that time, with previous statements linking him to ultraconservative discourse.

He, according to critics, was a two-faced politician, who held contradictory positions on the role of Islam in society.

Morou’s candidacy, lukewarmly supported by Ghannouchi, also led to divisions within Ennahda Movement, which has long sought to avoid washing its linen in public.

Worries quickly began to emerge after the announcement of the results of the first round of the presidential race, with Ennahda’s supporters starting to worry about their party’s apparent shrinking electoral base.

Mourou’s 12.9% of the votes in the first round represented about 435,000 ballots cast. The party claimed 1.5 million votes in 2011 and 1 million in 2014.

The defeat of Mourou was also a cause of distress among many rank-and-file Ennahda members, who could not accept the loss of the first-ever candidate for presidential office to be fielded by the Islamist party.