1 thought on “Tunisia: Islamism and secularism”

  1. Président Caid Essebsi’s suggestion that women be equal to men where inheritance is concerned is welcomed by some Tunisians but seen as an utter diversion by others in view of the difficult economic situation and the erosion of purchasing power millions
    of ordinary Tunisians are facing. The president cherry picked inheritance laws among a battery of measures to enhance individual liberties suggested by a commission he appointed last year. He is trying to force his partner Ennahda to state clearly what is their view on the issue ahead of presidential elections next year. Tunisia is split between modernists, of whom the president has been the nominal leader, Islamists and a large group of socially conservative people whose votes swing elections. The very low turnout at the municipal elections last May ( the new mayor of Tunis garnered 8 percent of those entitled to vote) speaks of lassitude if not utter disgust with the political class. The president has done all he can to undermine the authority of his prime minister and, so far, failed. He has just taken on the former prime minister, Mr Essid, whom he utterly humiliated as special adviser. Ennahda meanwhile seeks to seduce by having its leader Mr Ghannoushi say pleasing liberal things when then get contradicted within days by senior members of the governing choura council of Ennahda.
    The prime minister seeks to enact reforms but does not have to authority to do so. The soft consensus between the badly split Nida Tunes founded by Essebsi’s and Ennahda is stymying any real and desperately needed reforms. So long as there are no major terrorist attacks and Tunisia manages to stop immigration from its shores to Europe, EU members are happy to forget the country. They favoured the coalition between the two leading parties after the 2014 elections but today have doubts. Many businessmen are very unhappy about the present situation, the collapse of state authority, the laissez faire which shows in littered covered beaches and lack of respect for basic rules in building where ugly constructions are defacing the country. The young are totally indifferent if not contemptuous of the political class whom they view as ” a bunch of monkeys” a view shared by many of their elders be they educated or ordinary Tunisians. The roots of democracy are very shallow and many Tunisians, notably among the young openly regret Ben Ali. A further erosion of standards of living will have consequences, sooner or later. Europe would do well to stop quoting Tunisia as the only Arab democracy. That is not how it feels to the average Tunisia who notes that corruption has spread right through the system, a gangrene which, at one point, will have very adverse consequences.
    In such a situation reforming the laws which govern inheritance is of little interest. The president may think it casts him in the shadow of Bourguiba, but he is no modern day Bourguiba. The latter took bold decisions and saw them through. Mr Essebsi looks and sounds evermore like a politician of the French Fourth Republic, meandering around compromises, trying to sound presidential but, at the end of the day behaving like a small town politician.

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