Compromise is way forward for Tunisia
The move by Ennahda to give up four key ministries to non-partisan figures is a step in the right direction for restoring stability in Tunisia
On 27 February, Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that leads Tunisia’s three-party coalition government, announced that it would give four key ministries in the government to non-partisan figures. The party hopes that the move will restore stability to the country after a turbulent month in which opposition leader Chokri Belaid was murdered, and Tunisia’s prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, resigned.
The announcement follows the appointment of interior minister Ali Laarayedh, another Ennahda member, as leader of the government. After Jebali’s resignation, the timely formation of a new government and the agreement of a strategy to take the country forward have become crucial to restoring order in the country.
But there is an irony in the announcement too. Jebali resigned as prime minister precisely because he failed to secure the backing of his party for a proposal to give leading government posts to technocrats who did not have strong political agendas.
Jebali’s position was initially opposed by Ennahda’s leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, and other senior party members. They favoured an inclusive government comprising the country’s major political forces.
But the refusal of two centre-left opposition parties – the Republican Party and the Social Democratic Path – to join a government in which the key positions were held by Ennahda members have forced their hand.
The weeks of anguish over what kind of government is best suited to restoring national unity is a reflection of the magnitude of the challenge that the new government faces.
All parties must now ensure the debate over ministerial appointments does not drag on. Once the new government is in place, it must then show purpose in tackling complex challenges that include introducing a new constitution, scheduling elections and getting the economy back on track. The crisis is not yet averted. But Ennahda’s willingness to compromise, albeit under extreme pressure, is a good start.