Women, veiled and unveiled, to join Tunisia’s Al Nahda-led government

October 31, 2011
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Al Nahda, the Islamist party that dominated Tunisia’s elections this week, said that veiled and unveiled women would be in the coalition government it is forming.

Outlining the tendencies of the party as it leads talks for the formation of the government that will mange Tunisia for at least one year until a constitution is written and fresh elections are held, Rached Ghannounci, the head of Al Nahda, vowed to reinforce people’s rights and not curb them.

“We will not for instance force anyone to put on Islamic clothes,” he said. “We do not wish to see Tunisians turn into hypocrites by pretending what they are not. Every Tunisian man and woman has the right to wear what they want and to lead their lives they way they see appropriate because these are personal choices,” he said.

Al Nahda’s impressive victory in the elections where it took 41.7 per cent of the votes and carried 90 of the 217 seats in the constituent assembly has sparked concerns that it will impose a dress code and re-consider several liberal aspects in people’s personal lives.

However, Al Nahda leaders have been since Sunday when early vote counts confirmed its emergence as the new political powerhouse in the country sending messages that they would not alter “Tunisia’s social gains” and that they would consolidate people’s rights.

“The role of the state is to protect people’s rights and not to limit them,” Ghannounci said on Friday.

The constituent assembly, elected on Sunday but not confirmed before another two weeks until all appeals are reviewed, will also choose an interim president and a caretaker prime minister.

Hamadi Jebali, the 63-year-old secretary general of Al Nahda, is tipped to be chosen the next premier in line with the party’s preference for a parliamentarian regime where the winning party heads the government. Jebali, a doctor by formation, said that “it was only normal that Al Nahda, leads the government.”

The runner-up in the elections, the Congress for the Republic, carried 30 seats, one third of what Al Nahda, banned for decades, won.

“We also reiterate Tunisia’s commitment to its Maghreb, Arab and Islamic dimension amd to strengthening its relations with the European Union as a strategic partner and with its friend, the United States.”

Tunisia will also respect its commitments to international agreements and to reinforcing international security and peace, he said.

Ghannouchi in his press conference urged the inhabitants of Sidi Bouzid, a town in central Tunisia where riots erupted on Thursday evening, to remain calm and protect people’s lives and property.

“You should be the keenest on protecting the revolution, especially that its first sparks were from your town,” he said.

On December 17, Mohammad Bouazizi, a vegetables peddler in Sidi Bouzid, set himself ablaze after his complaint against a policewoman who allegedly hit him was turned rejected. Protestors, angered by the incident, clashed with the police and as the number of casualties, more people in other towns joined in the clashes until the standoff reached the capital Tunis and culminated with the flight of then president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the end of his regime.

Clashes erupted this time in Sidi Bouzid after the Independent High Commission for the Elections invalidated six lists presented by the Popular Petition, a new formation set up just before the elections, for alleged violations of the law. Rioters put fire to the local offices of Al Nahda and to state institutions, prompting the authorities to impose a night curfew.

Analysts, surprised like the rest of the nation with the performance of the party that allowed it to surge ahead of most other well-established parties with 19 seats, attributed its success to its populist promises.

Critics said that the party had strong links with former members of the RCD, the now-defunct party of Ben Ali.

However, Hechmi Hamdi, the head of the Popular Petition whose birthplace is Sidi Bouzid, denied the claims and said that he was the target of a character denigration plot.

He initially said that he would pull out the winning lists of his party from the constituent assembly, but later changed his mind.

“I have decided not to pull out the winning lists after I talked with several people, including the head of the elections commission,” he said on Friday evening. “We will now appeal the decision to invalidate our lists at the administration court. I urge the inhabitants of Sidi Bouzid to put an end to all acts of violence and chaos,” said Hamdi who lives in London where he owns Al Mustaqilla (The Independent) TV station.

Hamdi said that he requested the head of the national commission for achieving the goals of the revolution and the head of the elections commission to mediate with Al Nahda, his nemesis, to put an end to the feud with its leaders.

http://gulfnews.com/news/region/tunisia/women-veiled-and-unveiled-to-join-tunisia-s-al-nahda-led-government-1.920296

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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