Talk of an Egyptian-like uprising spreading to Tunisia continues, but just how likely is it?
Since day one (June 30) of the Egyptians' protests to overthrow the government, Tunisians were split between enthusiastic supporters of the ouster of the ‘Muslim Brotherhood's dictatorship’ and opponents of 'the coup against legitimacy.'
While some Tunisian politicians describe what happened in Egypt as a military intervention to impose a popular will to prevent the country from slipping into chaos, others believed it was a conflict between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood prompted by the masses. Others however consider these events a complete military coup.
It seems natural that the momentum of the Egyptian political arena casts a shadow over the Tunisian one. The two countries are closely linked since they started the era of the so-called Arab Spring, and their people have frequently traced each other.
In a press conference held on June 3 in Tunis, a youth group announced the birth of the 'Tamarrod Tunisia Movement.' Spokesman for the movement Muhammad Bennour said the launch of Tamarod (rebellion) aims as a first step to collect two million signatures to topple the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) and the government.
Political class failed
Tamarod Tunisia, says Bennour, has received support offers even from Islamists youth dissatisfied with the government's performance. Bennour stresses that NCA has let the Tunisians down by developing a non-consensual Constitution, deviating from the revolution's track towards identity-related mazes, far from the social and economic requirements of this stage and wasting public money.
“We have a legal expert team to draft a balanced Constitution representing all. NCA has produced a booby-trapped Constitution that establishes a theocratic and non-civil state and eliminates rights and freedoms, so we will present an alternative draft Constitution,” Bennour added.
He says the political class as a whole has failed and it is time for the street to bear its responsibility. Bennour however welcomes any oppositional support that respects the movement's peculiarity and does not seek to take advantage of it. "The number of signatures we have gathered will surprise everyone, and in light of these signatures, we will move in the coming days,” he concluded.
The opposition has launched unusual political consultations and movement, calling for ousting the NCA and forming a national salvation government. In the meantime, tension, angry reactions and condemnation have marked the positions of the troika parties and the presidency.
In support of change in Egypt
Ziad Lakhdhar, a prominent leader of the Popular Front, a leftist electoral alliance with a significant influence within the opposition, says the Popular Front unreservedly supports the Egyptian popular movement, emphasizes that the movement is peaceful and calls for thwarting all efforts made to turn the conflict into civil war and partition.
“What we have witnessed till the moment is not tantamount to a coup. We only hope that the role of the army stops and power is handed over to civilians at the earliest opportunity,” Lakhdhar added.
The Arab region, he says, is an interactive area though the borders that divide it were drawn by colonialism. “Morsi's fall and getting the Egyptian revolution back on its true track have prompted the Tunisian opposition to intensify its efforts to develop closer positions.”
“The Popular Front has called for a broad consultative meeting to study the possibility of withdrawing from NCA since it has become a hotbed aimed at conspiring against the future of the Tunisians and their gains. In the meantime, our MPs will expose the NCA's illegitimacy and plots,” Lakhdhar said.
“Rashid Ghannouchi defends his international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood's presence in Egypt. He began threatening to unleash the Revolution Protection Leagues to suppress the Tunisians in the case of rebellion. We too have allies in Egypt and the Arab World, who share our vision and who supported us when our Secretary-General Shoukri Belaid was assassinated,” he stressed.
"The Popular Front closely watches 'Tamarrod Tunisia' and sticks to its principal stance of supporting all civil and peaceful protest movements," he underlined.
“Setback of the Egyptian revolution”
When contacted to explain his party's stand vis-à-vis the recent events, Imed Daïmi, the Secretary-General of the Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), a strategic ally of Ennahda Movement, requested time to think and has not responded so far.
Samir Ben Amor, an NCA member for CPR, said what happened was a military coup against constitutional legitimacy, condemning what he considered to be a cowardly act and said what happened was “a setback of the Egyptian revolution and circumvention of the Egyptians' will or a jump into the unknown.”
“Democracy requires that those who have come to power through ballot boxes should only leave through these boxes,” Bin Amor added.
He said that the comparison between now and what happened in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 was impractical because when the army intervened, there was neither an elected political authority nor elected constitutional institutions. “The army should have applied the Emergency Law and stopped the demonstrators attacking headquarters of the Brotherhood,” he added.
Ben Amor claims that the number of people who took to the streets to support legitimacy was much more than those who called for the toppling of Morsi. As for Tamarrod Tunisia, he says, "It has been born dead and has no presence in the street.”
Ben Amor believes that the situation in Tunisia is different since it is governed under a national consensus among a group of Islamic and secular parties rather than an autocrat party.
Ennahda's position toward the Egyptian movement was consistent with that of its allies, though characterized by some tension. In an open letter to the Egyptian people, Ghannouchi asked Egyptians to remain in the streets to bring Morsi back to power.
On Ennahda's website, Ghannouchi addressed Egyptians, saying “I appeal to you to stay as we know you and not to go back to your homes until you achieve what has been promised to you, until you restore justice, freedom, democracy and legitimacy so that elected President Morsi continues what the Egyptians have entrusting him with.”
Not a coup
Mohsen Marzouk, a prominent leader of Call for Tunisia, strongly criticized the ruling troika's position toward Egypt's events. He said official positions were supposed to be taken based on Tunisia's interest, rather than the parties’. "A state is not a cultural association, and we are a small state whose foreign policy should be based on neutralism,” he added.
Call for Tunisia, says Marzouk, considers Egyptian affairs internal matters and a priority should be given to maintaining good neighborly relations with Egyptians, but Ennahda, a member of the global organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, supports the Egyptian Brotherhood at the expense of the country's interests and foreign relations. “A popular uprising occurred in Egypt and the army intervened to resolve a severe political crisis. We only hope that the army hands power over to civilians through early elections,” he added.
Marzouk believes that what happened in Egypt cannot be described as a coup, arguing that former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a military intervention to impose popular will, and former President Ben Ali was also forced to flee on January 14, 2011 after the military intervened, carrying out the change and appointing Fouad Mebazaa at the helm in Tunisia. “Is it possible to consider what happened in Tunisia a coup?” he wondered.
Commenting on the open letter sent by Ghannouchi to the Egyptian people, Marzouk said, “Ghannouchi crudely interferes in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. His message contains a clear call for internal fighting between the conflict parties. I believe he has lost it.”
When asked about the potential implications on Tunisia, Marzouk said legitimacy in Tunisia was violated by Ennahda, which breached all the agreements on the NCA term. “We have been governed by an illegal situation since October 23, 2012. This is a government of outlaws. We wanted to interact with them to replace the NCA ended legitimacy with a consensual one, but Ennahda refused and did not live up to our agreements. Thus, a wide popular mobilization is necessary to correct the path in a civilian way,” he explained.
“NCA has lost legitimacy, failed to play its role, and passed factional laws like the political isolation law. Therefore, it is not unlikely that we will withdraw our MPs. There are consultations with the Democratic Bloc that could lead to a mass withdrawal from the NCA,” he added.
He considered Tamarod Tunisia to be a youth movement, a healthy phenomenon represented in the return of young people to political action. “Their demands are legitimate and we support them,” he stressed.
“It is unlikely that the Egyptian scenario takes place in Tunisia in terms of military intervention. We support the popular movement that insures the ouster of the authority within civilian templates.”