Tunisia head-to-head: What next?
- 27 August 2013
- From the section Africa
Secular protesters in Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions which swept the region, have embarked on a week of demonstrations calling for the Islamist-led government to resign.
They have been emboldened by events in Egypt, where the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July.
They were also angered by the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi - the second secular politician to be killed in a year.
Ennahda, the party which dominates the government following elections in 2011, has offered an all-party "salvation government" but has ruled out dissolving the constituent assembly or removing the prime minister.
Here, two figures from the rival camps offer their solutions for resolving the country's worst political crisis since long-time leader President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in January 2011.
Yusra Ghannouchi, Ennahda's international spokeswoman
Two years ago, Tunisia's revolution for freedom and dignity was inspirational, sparking the promise of an Arab Spring. The tragic assassination of the martyr Mohamed Brahmi has undeniably been a hard blow to our transition from decades of despotism to a vibrant, stable democracy.
Ennahda has been clear in its condemnation of all forms of violence and continues to call on the authorities to do their utmost to identify, arrest and bring to account all those responsible for planning and perpetrating recent assassinations.
In fact, that is why Ennahda itself has become a principal target of an extremely hostile discourse from radical extremists who abhor its moderate discourse.
However, demands for the dissolution of the ANC (constituent assembly) or calls for the resignation of the government are not the way out of the current impasse. Such proposals not only lack logic, but lack popular support for several reasons.
First of all, few Tunisians see the logic of disbanding the assembly, the cornerstone of their democratic transition, the election of which was the principal demand of the Kasba sit-in, in the early months of 2011.
Secondly, few are convinced that throwing away all the progress, accumulated over the past two years, will somehow magically beckon a more successful and effective transitional phase.
The third reason is that few see the tragic events in Egypt as an attractive prospect for Tunisia. The Egyptian scenario indeed proves that the disruption of a political process only leads to further division, instability, chaos and violence.
The only solution is commitment to the current transition process, while demonstrating even greater openness to dialogue, co-operation and compromise.
This will accelerate what remains of the transition, namely, adopting the new constitution and holding elections. Thus, ending the transitional phase and establishing a stable democracy in Tunisia will inspire the region just as its revolution did.
The coalition government, which includes two secular parties and a number of independent ministers, is aware of the need to accelerate the co-ordination of the completion of the interim phase.
The government has indeed, thanks to extensive dialogue in recent months, succeeded in reaching significant agreements on all the key points regarding the drafting of the constitution, the electoral law and the remaining timetable.
In addition to these important agreements, promising progress had been made: Completion of the fourth draft of the constitution, formation of fundamental bodies (for example media authority and judicial council) as well as the election of eight out of nine members of the Independent Electoral Commission tasked with organising the coming elections.
The interim phase taking longer is, in great part, due to precisely the fact that it has been managed in the spirit of inclusiveness, requiring so much coalition-building, dialogue, compromise and consensus.
Finally, we must not let the difficulties and challenges that we face make us forget all the progress we have made so far. Particularly, if we take into account the decades of injustice, oppression and instability we have inherited as well as the economic crisis that is afflicting Europe - Tunisia's main economic partner.
Mehdi Said, spokesman for Tamaroud Tunisia
The way out of the current crisis in Tunisia is through the implementation of the five points proposed by Tamaroud Tunisia.
We are a grass-root "rebellion" opposition movement that came into being after the assassination of opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi on 25 July.
We demand, first of all, that the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), and all the bodies emanating from it including the current government, are immediately dissolved. We also call for the dismissal of Prime Minister Ali Larayedh.
Secondly, we believe the position of the interim President Moncef Marzouki has become untenable. He has turned from being a prestigious human rights defender into a blind ally of the Islamists.
Thirdly, we propose the formation of an alternative national salvation government with the participation of all opposition parties, civil society groups and trade unions, particularly, the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT).
We do not accept the solution the Ennahda government is working towards, because we believe that any such government formed from or that includes Ennahda will not differ from one formed after the assassination of the Chokri Belaid, the ANC member who was assassinated earlier this year in February.
Fourthly, we demand vigilante groups that became known as "revolution protection committees " be disbanded. They came into being spontaneously and in a peaceful manner back in the days of the revolution in 2011. But they have now turned into militia-type groups responsible for assaults on opposition journalists, artists, public figures and sit-ins.
Finally, we call on the authorities to reveal who is behind the recent assassinations. Tunisians will not rest until they find out the masterminds as well as those involved in the assassination of martyrs Belaid and Brahmi.
The government of Ennahda has failed miserably in achieving security and safety of its citizens. Tunisians now realise that this party does not care about the best interests of their country, but it only seeks to serve their own interests.
I hold the party responsible for the climate of insecurity Tunisians live in today. The discourse espoused by the party's leading figures, including its leader Rachid Ghannouchi, has been characterised by double-speak and ambiguity.
The government of Ennahda is on its last legs these days after it failed to achieve its electoral promises starting from reaching a final draft of the constitution to improving the economic situation.
The party has long used the excuse of trying to reach a consensus with the other parties as a reason for the continuation of the transitional phase.
In reality, Ennahda is only paying lip service to democracy and has no real political will in bringing the transitional period to an end. It could have, for example, established bodies responsible for the elections, the media and the judiciary in the first six months of their rule. They could have also retained the current constitution with some changes that may be enacted by a committee of experts.
We are pleased with what our sister Tamaroud [rebellion] opposition movement has achieved in Egypt recently, although with some reservations about the current situation. We are optimistic that our peaceful on-going protests, with the participation of broad segments of civil society, will succeed in achieving our stated demands.
Interviews by Abdirahim Saeed, BBC News