Tunisians will go to the polls on Oct. 26 for parliamentary elections - the country's second democratic election after the country toppled its autocratic leader in 2011. Ever since the revolution, the Nahda movement has ruled the country after winning the first democratic elections.
Tunisia was the spark that lit what has become known as the Arab Spring. Fellow North Africans in Egypt had a revolution that concluded with, firstly, the political power of the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Mohammed Morsi, and then the coup by the Egyptian army.
In Tunisia, on the other hand, when a similar military intervention threatened the normal democratic process, Rached Ghannouchi, armed with 40 years of political experience, took various measures to prevent the occurrence of a coup in the country's fragile democracy.
By showing an extraordinary degree of reconciliation and waiving its political power, al-Nahda, first of all, paved the way for the establishment of a technocratic government, and then succeeded to create a new constitution in Tunisia. The demonstrations that had begun after the assassination of the opposition leader by a terrorist organization were ended by the prudency of Ghannouchi and prevented a fullfledged coup.
While Tunisia is going to the polls for the second time in its brief democratic political existence, the country continues to tread on thin ice in its bid to forge a sustainable democracy and prevent the revitalization of the old regime.
In the recent political context of the Middle East, Western powers temporarily suspended their pragmatic attitude of working with the actors of political Isla, while their forceful exclusion from decision-making mechanisms has led to the emergence of petty terrorist groups on the political stage. In this respect, Tunisian politics has developed a sophisticated and conciliatory attitude that could prove sustainable, even in a fragile democratic structure by swimming against the current.
In our recent meeting with Ghannouchi, the philosophical leader of al-Nahda, he made crucial statements on politics in the Islamic world in general and Tunisia in particular. One of the main themes of his political statements was on the potential harm authoritarianism causes to the progress of political Islam and the compatibility of Islam and democracy.
In addition, Ghannouchi said that in order to establish a sustainable democracy in the country, he is not going to run for president or get involved in heavy polemics with his political rivals during the general elections in October. By following his usual political prudence, Ghannouchi claimed that their goal is to win democracy for the country, not the upcoming elections.
The leader of al-Nahda also said that the elections would be held in a prudent manner in order to not put the country at risk to the threats of the old regime, coups and political turmoil.
Although al-Nahda in Tunisia constitutes one of the most sophisticated and libertarian movements in world politics, its political rivals continue with stereotypic accusations, primarily with Salafism, fundamentalism and being reactionary. These accusations contribute to the formation of a negative postulate for the Tunisian people's reconsideration of the Nahda movement.
Despite being patriotically prudent, cautious and democratic, the Nahda movement has been confronted by heavy political campaigns launched by rival political movements that are unable to form a new political language other than blaming al-Nahda.
In such a political context, we wish good luck for the Tunisian people in their demanding and daunting task of democracy.
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.