An original Translation by Michael Laudahn
Filmed unknowingly, Rached Ghannouchi drops his masque. The polemic rises in Tunisia after statements made by the islamist chief Rached Ghannouchi, asking the salafists to show ‘patience’ and ‘wisdom’, while the islamists may consolidate their power against the secular forces. Often accused of maintaining a double discourse, Rached Ghannouchi finds himself in the centre of a polemic presently raging in Tunisia, after a video was put online on october 9 showing the chief of the Tunisian islamist party Ennahda, filmed without his knowledge.
On the footage, he asks salafist visitors to show ‘patience’ and ‘wisdom’ while the islamists may consolidate their power against the secular forces. During all of his statements, Rached Ghannouchi [always] opposes the secular versus the islamist camp, insisting on the Tunisian society’s bi-polarisation. ‘The secular forces, although a minority, control the media and the economy’, he says in the video put online early this week and shot, according to the Tunisian media, last february.
The administration, although under the Ennahda’s control, is also in their hands’. Warning against the resurgence of the Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique – RCD, former president Ben Ali’s party, dissolved in march 2011 -, he continues affirming twice that the army and the police ‘are not sure yet [with regard to their allegiance]’. Adding: ‘I say to our salafists to have patience […] Why precipitate? Take your time to consolidate what you have acquired’, obtained by the islamists since the revolution.
‘Today, we do no longer have a mosque, we do have a ministry of religious affairs, we do no longer have a shop, we do have a state’, he insisted. Explaining his ‘small steps’ strategy, Rached Ghannouchi cites as an example the case of the Algerian islamists. ‘Don’t you believe a way back is not possible? This is what we thought in Algeria in the 90s, but our judgement was erroneous: The mosques fell back into the secular forces’ hands, and the islamists were again prosecuted’, he argued.
Spread massively on the internet via social networks, the video has had the effect of a bomb with the political class and media in Tunisia, who rose against the content of this speech and the split-tongue displayed by the islamist chief. His opponents accuse him of maintaining a double discourse aiming at concealing a radical agenda which he never renounced to apply, while furnishing to the public the moderate and democratic image of his party.
The ‘Le Quotidien’ paper notes this thursday that ‘the most severe thing in his [Rached Ghannouchi’s] opinions is saying that the islamaists must absolutely discard the secular forces […] and put their hands on the Tunisian administration and all the state’s levers, in order to strike root and avoid reproducing the Algerian failure’. On its part, the arabophone daily ‘Le Maghreb’ evokes ‘a scandalous video recording’ and ‘the truth of the salafist project of Rached Ghannouchi’.
The opposition has qualified the video’s contents as ‘very severe’, displaying ‘the double discourse of Ennahda’.
Mr Ghannouchi ‘casts discredit on the institutions, this man owes them explanations’, reacted Issam Chebbi, Parti Républicain (centre) on Radio Mosaïque FM. This thursday, several deputies of the constituting national assembly have organised a reunion, in order to discuss means and actions to to take vis-à-vis this video. Ennahda, on its part, denounces a conspiracy, comparing the putting online of the video ‘to the spy and montage methods handed down by the ancien régime’. In a communiqué published october 10, the party denounces ‘cut and mounted sequences’, aiming at deforming the statements of its chief, specifying especially that Rached Ghannouchi referred to the corrupt minorities reattached to the ancien régime, when he indicated that the army or the police have not [yet] been conquered by the islamist cause.
According to the chief of the islamist party, the opinions of this latter ‘were in the framework of the attempts of the Sheikh to convince the salafists to avoid violence, and to participate pacifically in political life in Tunisia’.
For Salim al-Abyad, professor of political sociology at the Université de Tunis el-Manar, interviewed by FRANCE 24, ‘it is logical that Ennahda tries to minimise the impact of this video, trying to justify its contents, considering the fact that it has caused a vast debate in Tunisia and shocked a good number of tunisians’. According to him, the spreading of this video comes during a tense electoral context. The next elections are expected to be held in march 2013, after the adoption of the new constitution, presently edited by the constituting assembly which was the result of the ballot held in october 2011, which was dominated by Ennahda.
‘Tunisia is in the middle of an electoral campaign, putting this video online is part of the electoral battle which runs presently, and the political parties attempt to settle their accounts’. According to Salem al-Abyad, the video showing the conversation between the islamist leader and several young salafists could have several consequences.
‘This speech could provoke a descent in trust of the democratic intentions of Ennahda, while giving credit to those claiming that Ennahda pratcises a double discourse, and could at short-term disturb the process of democratic transition’, notes he. To conclude: ‘This party, which holds the power and which owes itself to represent all tunisians, should refrain from running charm operations with salafists, and on the other side stop to deny the existence of a heterogenous society in Tunisia, while evoking endlessly a bipolarisation between secular and islamist forces’.