Renamed in 1989
|Legalized||March 1, 2011|
|Preceded by||Islamic Tendency Movement|
|International affiliation||Muslim Brotherhood|
|Politics of Tunisia
The Ennahda Movement (Arabic: حركة النهضة Ḥarakat an-Nahḍah; French: Mouvement Ennahda), also known as Renaissance Party (Arabic: حزب النهضة Ḥizb an-Nahḍah) or simply Ennahda, is a moderate Islamist political party in Tunisia. On 1 March 2011, after the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali collapsed in the wake of the 2011 Tunisian revolution, Tunisia's interim government granted the group permission to form a political party. Since then it has become the biggest and most well-organized party in Tunisia, so far outdistancing its more secular competitors. In the 23 October 2011 Tunisian Constituent Assembly election, the first free election in the country's history with a turn out of 51.1% of all eligible voters, the party won 37.04% of the popular vote and 89 of the 217 assembly seats (41%). The party stepped down in January 2014 in order to make way for the final drafting of a constitution by a neutral interim government, followed by planned elections based on the new constitution.
Succeeding a group known as Islamic Action, the party was founded under the name of "The Movement of Islamic Tendency" (Arabic: حركة الاتجاه الإسلامي Ḥarakat al-Ittijāh al-Islāmī) in 1981. In 1989, it changed its name to Ḥarakat an-Nahḍah. The party has been described as one of many parties/movements in Muslim states "that grew up alongside the Iranian revolution", and it was originally inspired by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The group supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, claiming that "It was not an embassy, but a spy centre". Their influence in 1984 was such that, according to Robin Wright, an unnamed British journalist living in Tunisia stated that the Islamic Tendency was "the single most threatening opposition force in Tunis. One word from the fundamentalists will close down the campus or start a demonstration." The group, or members of it, were also responsible for the bombing of some tourist hotels in the 1980s.
Although traditionally shaped by the thinking of Sayyid Qutb and Maududi, the party began to be described as "moderate Islamist" in the 1980s when it advocated democracy and a "Tunisian" form of Islamism recognizing political pluralism and a "dialogue" with the West. Critics charge[who?] that one of their main leaders, named Rashid Al-Ghannushi, had a history of violence yet in courts he was accused by the ruling party of organizing a non-authorized political party. Others say[weasel words] he supports any form of multi-party democracy that offers a minimum of freedom for his party and followers.
In the 1989 elections, the party was banned from participating. However some members ran as independents, and received between 10% and 17% of the vote nationally according to official figures of the Ben Ali regime. Two years later President Ben Ali turned against Ennahda, jailing 25,000 activists. Ennahda militants attacked the ruling party headquarters, killing one person and splashing acid in the faces of several others.
Ennahda's newspaper Al-Fajr was banned in Tunisia and its editor, Hamadi Jebali, was sentenced to sixteen years imprisonment in 1992 for membership in the un-authorized organisation and for "aggression with the intention of changing the nature of the state". The Arabic language television station El Zeitouna is believed to be connected with Ennahda. The party was strongly repressed in the late 1980s and early 1990s and almost completely absent from Tunisia from 1992 until the post-revolutionary period. "Tens of thousands" of Islamists were imprisoned or exiled during this time.
Tunisian revolution and legalisation
In the wake of the Tunisian Revolution, about 1,000 people welcomed Rachid Ghanoushi on his return to Tunis. The party has been described as moving "quickly to carve out a place" in the Tunisian political scene, "taking part in demonstrations and meeting with the prime minister." Earlier Al-Ghannushi announced that the party had "signed a shared statement of principles with the other Tunisian opposition groups". The New York Times reported mixed predictions among Tunisians for the party's success, with some believing the party would enjoy support in the inland part of Tunisia, but others saying Tunisia was too secular for the Ennahda Movement to gain broad support. On 22 January 2011, in an interview with Al Jazeera TV, Rashid Al-Ghannushi confirmed that he is against an Islamic Caliphate, and supports democracy instead, unlike Hizb ut-Tahrir, (whom Al-Ghannushi accuses of exporting a distorted understanding of Islam).
The party was legalised on 1 March 2011. A March 2011 opinion poll found the Ennahda Movement ranked first among political parties in Tunisia with 29%, followed by the Progressive Democratic Party at 12.3% and the Ettajdid Movement at 7.1%. It was also found that 61.4% of Tunisians "ignore political parties in the country." This success has caused some secularists to endorse the postponing of elections, and "frightening many secularists and women who fear for their place in the new Tunisia."
In May 2011 Ennahda's General Secretary Hamadi Jebali traveled to Washington, D.C. on the invitation of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy He also met U.S. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman.
Ennahda's leaders have been described as "highly sensitive to the fears among other Tunisians and in the West about Islamist movements", conscious of the bloody Algerian Civil War between Islamists and the government and the divisions in Palestine between Hamas and secularists. On 18 May spokesman Samir Dilou stated again in an interview: "We do not want a theocracy. We want a democratic state, that is characterised by the idea of liberty. The people are to decide themselves how they live. ... We are not an Islamist party, we are an Islamic party, that also gets its bearings by the principles of the Koran." Moreover he named Turkey a model, regarding the relation of state and religion, and compared the party's Islamic democratic ideology to Christian democracy in Italy and Germany. A foreign journalist attending Ennahda rallies in Tunisia noted enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause and the slogan "no to American military bases, no to foreign interventions."
On a press conference in June 2011 the Ennahda Movement presented itself as modern and democratic and introduced a female member who wore a headscarf and a member who didn't, and announced the launching of a youth wing. Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that, unlike leftist parties of Tunisia, the moderately Islamist party is not against a market economy.
Ahead of the Constituent Assembly election on 23 October 2011, the party conducted a costly electoral campaign, extensively providing potential voters, especially from the lower class, with promotional gifts, meals for the end of Ramadan feasts, and sponsoring events. Therefore, it has been accused of receiving considerable financial contributions from abroad, namely from the Arab states of the Gulf.
In the election for the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia, the Ennahda Movement won 89 of the 217 seats, making it by far the strongest party in the legislature. Subsequently, it agreed with the two runners-up, the centre-left secular Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol, to co-operate in the Assembly and to share the three highest positions in state. Accordingly, Ennahda supported the election of Ettakatol's secretary-general Mustapha Ben Jafar as Speaker of Parliament, and of CPR-leader Moncef Marzouki as interim President of the Republic. The latter, in exchange, immediately appointed Ennahda's secretary-general Hamadi Jebali as Prime Minister.
According to scholar Noah Feldman, rather than being a "puzzling disappointment for the forces of democracy", the Ennahda victory is a natural outcome of inevitable differences between revolution's leaders and the fact that "Tunisians see Islam as a defining feature of their personal and political identities." Rashid Ghannouchi, the party's leader was one of the few "voices of resistance to the regime in the last 20 years."
Political scientist Riadh Sidaoui explains that the Ennahda leader models his approach on the moderate Islamism of Turkey; he says : "The leadership was forced into exile in London for a long time [because of harassment by Tunisian police] and understood about the need to have a balanced outlook... No one wants a repeat of the 1991 Algerian scenario."
On 13 November 2011, the party's general secretary Hamadi Jebali held a joint rally in Sousse together with a parliamentary deputy of the Palestinian Hamas party. In a tone sharply in contrast to official statements of the party, Jebali referred to the occasion as "a divine moment in a new state, and in, hopefully, a 6th caliphate," and that "the liberation of Tunisia will, God willing, bring about the liberation of Jerusalem." When Hamas leadership arrived for a visit to Tunisia, people at the airport were heard shouting "Kill the Jews."
The party is generally described as socially centrist with mild support for economic liberalism. However, liberals accuse its leaders of "doublespeak" in this regard. The party wishes to revise the strong secular, Arab nationalist, and socialist principles that predominate among the other parties, and instead allow Islam into public life and be more accommodating to other viewpoints such as closer relations with the West and greater economic freedom. The party currently rejects radical Islamism as a form of governance appropriate for Tunisia; in a debate with a secular opponent Al-Ghannushi stated, "Why are we put in the same place as a model that is far from our thought, like the Taliban or the Saudi model, while there are other successful Islamic models that are close to us, like the Turkish, the Malaysian, and the Indonesian models; models that combine Islam and modernity?"
Ahmed Ibrahim of the Tunisian Pole Democratique Moderniste political bloc complained to a foreign journalist that Ennahda appears "soft" on television, "but in the mosques, it is completely different. Some of them are calling for jihad". The general manager of Al Arabiya wrote an editorial expressing the opinion that Ennahda is fundamentally a conservative Islamist party with a moderate leadership. Ennahda has been described as a mixed bag with moderate top layers and a base defined by "a distinctly fundamentalist tilt".
Although the party has expressed support for women's rights and equality of civil rights between men and women, the party chose to place only two women at first position out of 33 regional lists for the Tunisian Constituent Assembly. Al-Ghannushi noted that women have not held any de facto leadership positions under Ben Ali's governments and that it is a "reality" that only a few women are suited to leadership posts.
The party is more moderate in urbanized areas such as Tunis, where secular and socially liberal beliefs predominate.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ennahdha.|
- (Arabic) Official website
- Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, "The Islamic Challenge in North Africa," MERIA: Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 2 (July 1997)
- Article by Emmanuel Sivan