Hundreds of Defectors: Has the Ennahda Movement Collapsed?

The leadership of Tunisian’s Ennahda movement is facing a crisis, represented by the resignation of 113 of their members, including prominent leaders, according to what Abdellatif Mekki confirms, the former leader of the movement. He draws a connection between the numerous resignations in the movement and the poor performance of its leadership during the political crisis, as well as its inability to deal with Kais Saied’s exceptional decisions, Tunisian President, which stripped the movement of any influence or authority in the Tunisian state.

“The current leadership bears a significant amount of responsibility for how the general situation in the country has ended up, especially when allowing a room for a coup against the constitution and the institutions emanating from it,” Mekki says. He points out that at the same time, the Ennahda’s leadership also bears the responsibility for the movement being completely isolated in Tunisia.

It is noteworthy that the resignations list included some senior leaders in the movement, led by Abdellatif Mekki, the former Minister of Health between 2011 and 2014, Samir Dilou, a member of the House of Representatives, Mohamed Ben Salem, Jamila Ksiksi, Toumi Hamrouni Rabeb Ben Letaief and Noussayba IBN ALI.

Failed to Stop the President

Commenting on the resignation’s news, Mohamed Abd Elhak, a researcher in the affairs of Islamic movements, points out that these resignations are not related to the issue of losing power as much as they are to the failure of Ennahda movement’s leadership to confront the presidency. The presidency that has restricted most of the executive powers and the Head of Government’s power to be only in the President’s hands. The researcher opines that the members of the movement see these presidential restrictions as an indication that shows the weakness of the movement’s current leaderships to fight political battles, even though the movement has been in power continuously for 10 years.

“Today, the Tunisian president holds all the powers, froze the movement and took controversial exceptional decisions, as he extended the suspension period of Parliament several times and has become the governing center. All this was done in one night. A political power in Ennahda movement believes that these measures would have never existed or taken if it were not for the movement’s policy and its negative leadership that enabled the president to take such decisions, especially since the movement’s circles see them as a coup,” Abd Elhak says.

Abd Elhak indicates that the most prominent raised question in the movement’s circles is that what the movement has done to restore its influence or face the rise of the president’s influence after about two months from the exceptional situation?

In addition, Abd Elhak implies that whoever reads the resigned group’s statement would be fully convinced that there is a state of great separation between the movement’s leadership and its cadres. The statement issued by them has spoken directly about major mistakes existed at the level of internal policy in the movement or within the administration and participation in governance. He mentions that the movement was having a dictatorial current emerged led by Rached Ghannouchi.

It is noteworthy that the statement of the Independent Group had talked about the internal democracy of Ennahda movement being disrupted. The excessive centralization within the movement was also included in the statement. The resigned members considered that there is sole decision-making by a group of loyalists to the movement’s president. As a result, political alliances that have no logic or interest and contradict the pledges made to the electorate have been formed.

“Evaluating Ennahda movement’s performance in successive governments and parliaments after the revolution requires a frank and courageous critical reading without excluding ourselves from the responsibility resulting from the contribution of some of us to the partisan and governmental decision in specific periods,” added in the statement.

Delayed Collapse

With the continuation of withdrawals and internal tensions in Ennahda movement, Mohamed Shaalan, a political analyst, wonders whether the movement is actually heading to the stage of collapse or not. “What the movement is going through now are major tremors, but it cannot be said that it has completely collapsed, especially that it is a religious movement that uses faith as a means to attract and build its popular base,” the analyst tells.

“What is important in the defections is the existence of struggle for power and leadership at the first level of it, which leads to saying that the movement is heading to collapse; however, it has not collapsed yet, and Ghannouchi still has influence in the movement, even if its political power has declined,” Shaalan explains. He points out that the coming weeks will be pivotal for the movement’s entity as a whole.

Shaalan also stresses that the resigned powers believe that Ghannouchi was not at the level of the constitutional, legal and political developments that the country is witnessing, especially since the movement’s statements were confusing and contradictory as they once came rejecting Saied’s policies and decisions, once came ready for dialogue with him and a third time were adopting his direction.

In addition, Shaalan points out that Ghannouchi is supported by his current among the movement’s leaders and he is working to cement his leadership of the movement, especially as he has taken a series of measures that support him staying in his leadership position. Shaalan considers that Ghannouchi bears full responsibility for what the movement is experiencing, additionally, he was required to resign from his position because in doing so, the existing conflict situation would have never happened.

Repetition of Previous Failures

Given the overall political developments in the North African region in general during the past ten years, Amr Abdel-Aty, a political analyst, considers that what is happening in Tunisia is part of a series of catastrophic failures of political Islam represented by the Muslim Brotherhood while being in power, from Egypt to Tunisia passing through Libya and moving to Morocco. Abdel-Aty draws attention to the fact that the thinking mechanism adopted by the MB and based on obedience to the guide is the first reason for its failure.

In the same context, Abdel-Aty believes that the policies of Ennahda movement and the Ghannouchi movement that has the full control have not only affected the movement, but also the country as a whole. He emphasizes that the exceptional situation in Tunisia and the set of crises are caused by the prevailing belief in the movement’s leadership that they are able to impose de-facto authority in the movement and in the Tunisian state institutions. This belief has led to the movement’s isolation, therefore, its inability to build alliances with other political currents far from the religious ones.

It is worthy of mention that the statement issued by the resigned group has stated that the wrong political choices led Ennahda movement to its isolation, as well as its failure to actively engage in any common front to resist the imminent authoritarian threat represented by the September 22 resolutions.

“Apart from evaluating the legality and constitutionality of the president’s decisions as they are within the jurisdiction of the legal experts, the movement’s policies have represented the ground that led the country to these decisions. The conditions that the country has been through during the past months threatened with the outbreak of a new revolution. Nevertheless, the movement set out to settle political differences and hostilities and tried to consolidate the existing political system instead of resolving economic and living crises,” Abdel-Aty adds. He clarifies that it was Ennahda that enabled the presidency to take these measures and collect all powers to be in the hands of the president.

It is noteworthy that it is not the first time that the Ennahda movement has witnessed mass resignations as a result of the backdrop of the political crisis in the country. Ennahda has been going through this state since President Kais Saied announced his exceptional decisions on July 25 and suspended the Parliament’s work for 30 days, in which Ennahda owns the largest bloc, especially with the dismissal of Ennahda’s ally, Hichem Mechichi, the Prime Minister, and the president taking over the executive authority himself.

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