dimanche 9 octobre 2011

Blunders from Ennahda and Top 4 (part 1)

Logo of Ennahda

It is true that the current method of balloting chosen by the ISIE (group overseeing the elections of October 23rd), proportional representing with better rest, favors small parties and independent lists. I will give more details about this system in a future article. For now, let’s just look at the current leaders in the polls. I’m not trying to get more publicity out for the big parties; they get enough as it is, but rather to give a picture of who is most likely to have the best results in the first Tunisian Constituent Assembly.

1-Ennhada: Tunisia’s main Islamic party, Ennhada was formed in the early eighties and was always severely persecuted during Bourguiba’s and Ben Ali’s tenures as President. Today, they enjoy large support primarily from southern regions and is atop current standings at the polls. They say they intend to honor women’s freedoms, democratic values, liberties (religiously based), justice and good governing policies. At least that is what came out of the official presentation of their program on September 14th.

The party is accused by many Tunisians of covering up facts and committing electoral fraud. I will share some examples with you that were told to me by two activists working for a non-governmental organization that oversees electoral laws. These people have no affiliations with parties and are open to the Islamic ideas ushered by religious parties like Ennahda. In their line of work, they sometimes are informed, by regular citizens, of illegal activities conducted by the political parties. Fearing retribution, they asked to remain anonymous. This goes to show you how open the parties are in the face of criticism! Remember that these were the same people who denounced censorship and lack of freedom in the old regime…

Volunteers of Ennahda frequently roam the streets, trying to get voters to choose their party by showing them their political programs. Nothing out of the ordinary just yet, it’s the same as is practiced everywhere else in all democracies. However, what differs is if the person should tell the volunteer his intention of voting for another candidate or party. This will often lead to a barrage of unjust questioning which can last several minutes in hopes of making them believe they are making the wrong choice.

The leader of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi
Another example is when party members "offer help" to those less fortunate by organizing collective weddings, paying for child circumcisions and by offering specialized education free of charge. During these occasions, Ennahda’s people ask for their signed intent to vote for them in exchange for said favors. You read it right! Favors exchanged for votes. Sometimes it's even worse, they offer small sums of cash to people. Some folks have confessed to accepting the money and signing the sheet. They also said they would not vote for them anyways. That’s a good sign to me, at least come election day, no matter what the parties are up to, the vote will be completely private and up to the individual.

I tried to contact Ennahda yesterday to get their version of the facts but to no avail. The official response they gave me? "It is illegal to conduct interviews with foreign bloggers or reporters". Strange answer, as they often talk publicly with the likes of Al Jazeera and Al Hiwar. Surely these stations all come from Tunisia…

Party leader Rached Ghannouchi spent nearly 20 years in exile in London after being imprisoned for ten in Tunisia. He has been a religious militant since the late sixties and founded the party in 1981. Today, he remains popular among the masses. Recently, the party has been reprimanded by the ISIE for violating electoral laws.

2-Progressive Democratic Party (PDP): Founded in the mid eighties, the PDP (in French) focuses its attention more on the economic challenges facing Tunisia as well as unemployment. They view themselves as socialist center party and plan to raise the minimum wage by 20 dinars a month, to invest massively in the economy, and to encourage foreign investment.

Even though they are confident that they can win the election ahead of Ennhada, certain revelations made about the party prompted many of its members to suddenly resign on October 6th.

Ahmed Néji Chebbi
The PDP’s leader, Ahmed Néji Chebbi, is a well known opposition figure and was active in leftist movements for a long time. In 2009, he considered running against ex-dictator Ben Ali but his candidacy was rejected.

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