Monday, October 24, 2011

Tunisia's Results

In elections where voter turnout was over 80%, the Islamist al-Nahda (Renaissance) party will have a huge parliamentary plurality:
"Tunisia’s moderate Islamist political party emerged Monday as the acknowledged leader in elections for a constitutional assembly and began talks to form a unity government with a coalition of liberals in a rare alliance that party leaders hailed as an inclusive model for countries emerging from the tumult of the Arab Spring.

"By Monday afternoon, Tunisian liberal parties said they were entering discussions to form a government led by their Islamist rival, Ennahda, after it swept to a plurality of about 40 percent in preliminary vote tallies. The acceptance of the results by rivals signaled the beginning of a partnership seldom seen in the Arab world, where Islamists’ few opportunities for victories at the voting booth have sometimes led to harsh crackdown or civil war."

On that second paragraph, it's worth pointing out that in the Arab world, it has been the non-Islamist governments refusing to accept Islamist electoral victories which has led to conflict. Focusing on this Tunisian case, however, al-Nahda had the highest profile, was the best organized, and was able to position itself as the viable party furthest from the corruption and oppression of the Ben Ali regime. Its leader, Rashid Ghannoushi, has spoken of Turkey's AKP as a template and said he believes in what he calls the Anglo-American model of a religious-neutral public sphere to that of France of Kemalist Turkey, which are more hostile to religion outside the realms of belief and ritual. Parties are, of course, more than leaders, and al-Nahda seems to have drawn in some salafis and others who want a more formally Islamic order than Ghannoushi has called for. It's a good sign, however, that al-Nahda is reaching out to liberal parties rather than smaller Islamist groups, not so much for what it might say about the party's ideology, but for what it portends about the process of creating a new democratic order in which all Tunisians can have faith.



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