Friday, August 2, 2013

Rebellion movements inspired by Egypt splinter in Tunisia

Tamarod poster: "The Tunisian Constitution doesn't represent me."

An interview with Dr. Alaya Allani, professor of Professor of Contemporary History at Manouba University, Tunisia, conducted by Tunisialive, July 24, 2013.

In the wake of the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, multiple groups in Tunisia have organized with the aim of “correcting the path of the revolution” by overthrowing the ruling Ennahdha government. There are important differences, however, between these activists and their counterparts in Egypt.

On Monday, the Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh condemned the most prominent of these groups, Tamarod. In a radio interview, he described the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement as a “copy cat group,” referring to the Egyptian movement by the same name which mobilized millions against Morsi, and a “danger to the democratic process,” according to AFP.  Tunisia’s Tamarod, however, denies the claim, saying that the similarities with their Egyptian counterparts stops at the name, which means “rebellion” in Arabic.

Mahdi Said, a spokesperson for Tamarod, outright rejected the possibility of military intervention, as seen in Egypt, saying “there is no way for military interference to achieve the goals of the movement.”
Said further distanced Tamarod from the events seen in Egypt, where political parties came to the support of the grassroots Egyptian Tamarod movement, claiming that his group is completely independent.
Commenting on Tamarod’s support base, Said claimed that as of July 14, the group had collected 878,000 signatures, adding that they are prepared to give the names to “an independent, neutral committee” for verification but not to any political party, for fear of government retribution. The group’s Facebook page shows over 14,000 likes.
The Tunisian Tamarod also differs from its Egyptian counterpart in that its leadership was not well-known in the country prior to establishing the group. In Egypt, the movement was led by activists with experience from previous campaigns including the 2004 Kefaya campaign, according to the BBC.
Tamarod is not the only group seeking to remove the government. Another group, Khaneqtuna, has also called for the “correction of the revolution.” Despite efforts to coordinate, disagreements have splintered the groups.
In distinguishing Tamarod from Khaneqtuna, Said cited the former’s commitment to political independence and dedication to maintaining Tunisian government institutions, calling Khaneqtuna’s approach “anarchy.”
Ayoubi Jaouadi, a member of Khaneqtuna, stated that the two groups share similar goals, but different planned means.
In published statements, Tamarod and Khaneqtuna state that the government and National Constituent Assembly have lost legitimacy as their October 23, 2012 mandate has expired. Both groups have made contradictory statements on their preferred outcomes should they succeed in removing the government and NCA.

Alaya Allani, a professor at Manouba University and a historian of Islamism in the Maghreb, doubts Tunisia will follow Egypt’s example and played down Tamarod’s aims.
“In my opinion there aren’t groups seeking to overthrow the government, rather there are groups seeking to pressure the government and the NCA to hasten the setting of a final date for elections and the [ratification of the] constitution. For this, they are demanding the dissolution of the government and the NCA through peaceful political pressure.”

Allani listed Tamarod but also political parties Nidaa Tounes and the Popular Front as examples of groups pressuring the government, whose legitimacy and that of the NCA has been questioned by many since its electoral mandate expired on October 23, 2012.
“The Tamarod is an expression of desperation, directed not only at the government but at the opposition as well.” He is confident, though, that the process will remain peaceful.

“We have not heard so far of someone calling for change through violence,” he said. Allani denied that the military intervention seen in Egypt is possible in Tunisia, saying that the military is “committed to neutrality.” Still, he said that the government would be wise to respond.
“It would be in the interest of Tamarod and the government to negotiate for a date for elections.”
“Ennahdha needs to show that it is not like the Muslim Brotherhood, and that it is a civil democratic party in substance and not only appearance.”

Asma Smadhi contributed reporting.
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