This blog's main topics are the political situation in Tunisia and all the activities surrounding the election of the Constituent Assembly that was held on October 23rd 2011. You will also find interviews and discussions that I conducted with politicians and bloggers from the Revolution. All this from a Canadian perspective in Tunis.
mercredi 16 novembre 2011
Hechmi Hamdi, the running joke of Tunisian politics
Hechmi Hamdi, the leader of
It’s not the first time I bring up the subject but
it’s difficult not to do it again with the most recent escapades that afflict
one more time the Aridha Chaabia party.
Last Friday, nine elected officials (plus three other
candidates) announced that they would resign to sit at the Constituent Assembly
as independents. The latter indicated that they didn’t want to work anymore with their
leader, Hechmi Hamdi, who didn’t share any decisional power and never even
On the previous day, M. Hamdi announced that he would
arrive in Tunis on Saturday November 12th and that he would stay for three
weeks. Then, when confronted with the wave of resignations of his candidates,
he chose to stay in London.
The most surprising aspect of this news isn’t exactly that
he delayed his arrival, but that he was out of the country for the entire
electoral campaign and that he doesn’t seem to have any desire to establish
himself in Tunisia. Moreover, when questioned about his absence during the
campaign, he offered no explanation except to say that “he preferred staying in
The never ending saga
For those who haven’t followed this saga, here is a summary
of the main facts.
-October 27: Disclosure of the final election results. Aridha
Chaabia, a party unknown to the media, wins 27 seats. On the other hand, nine
candidates are disqualified for electoral fraud and affiliation with the former
-A few hours later, Hechmi Hamdi announces
that his party, in protest, will not be present at the Constituent Assembly.
-October 29: The party’s remaining 18 elected candidates state
that they will disobey their leader and sit in the Constituent Assembly.
-November 8: The country’s Administrative Court reverses the disqualification
of eight of the nine candidates bringing the total number of seats for Aridha
Chaabia to 26.
What is wrong with the party?
It’s difficult to blame anyone but Hechmi Hamdi for
all the problems afflicting Aridha Chaabia. In addition to multiplying
contradictory statements since the election, he seems to have a very unusual
Following the election, he proclaimed himself
President of Tunisia on his Facebook page. Moreover, he continually proclaims that
50% of the population voted for Aridha Chaabia and that the other parties
should negotiate with him to form a coalition.
Let us recall that M. Hamdi owns a London based
television station and that he appears on it on a regular basis. He used it extensively
during the campaign to make promises considered unrealistic, populist and
demagogic by his opponents (ex: free health care, free public transit for the elderly,
an additional indemnity of 200 dinars per month for all the unemployed, etc.)
In search of an identity
Beyond the scandals and quirkiness of their leader,
does the party have an identity problem? It’s a valid question since it’s
practically impossible to determine any ideological leaning within Aridha
Is the party leaning to the left, to the right or is
it somewhere in the middle politically? Hard to guess, maybe somewhat to the
left when we consider the great number of promises.
Is Aridha Chaabia a Progressive or Islamic party?
There again, your guess is as good as mine. M. Hamdi considers members of
Ennahda as “his brothers” in spite of their refusal to collaborate with him and
their never having contacted him.
Tunisia's interim President, Fouad Mebazaa.
It’s the same with Progressives. None of them want
anything to do with him since M. Hamdi is suspected of having had links with
Knowing all of this, the most recent decision of Tunisian
interim President Fouad Mebazaa not to invite him with the main the major
parties to the preliminary discussions regarding the Constituent Assembly isn’t
really surprising. M. Hamdi didn’t appreciate it and requested excuses from the
President. He then made the same demands to the Tunisia Africa press agency, to
political parties and to the main television network in the country, accusing
them all of defamatory remarks towards him.
An uncertain future
If the party remains isolated and continues
accumulating scandals, it would be surprising for them to survive much longer.
Only three weeks after the election, a third of their elected candidates have left
the party and it’s not impossible that more of them will do the same in the
It remains to be seen if all of this will truly hinder
M. Hamdi from now to the next election. If some consider him a joke (I’m one of
them), others see in him the future saviour of Tunisia.
One thing is certain; no one had predicted the advent
of Aridha Chaabia last October 23rd and few will dare bet against them in the
future. If Tunisian politics has something in common with other democracies
around the world, it’s that it can be unpredictable.