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Justice and Development, Ennahda … Parties with Political Priorities | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Police officers stand guard before the Interior Ministry in Tunis. Reuters

Rabat-Many experts and observers of Islamic organizations,discuss the particularity of the parties of Justice and Development in Morocco and Ennahda Movement in Tunisia and their decisive contribution in ensuring their countries’ independence amidst an unstable regional entourage dominated by terrorism and armed conflicts instead of ballot boxes and legal transfer of authority. But the review of principles and behaviors of both parties explains the origin of their current political behavior.

The outcome of the Tunisian revolution transformed the Ennahda into a legitimate organism, a leader for a Coalition government, and a main partner in the current government. In Morocco, which is controlled by a royal executive rule, the manifestation of the February 20, 2011 led the Justice and Development to head the government in coalition with three other parties.

The Moroccan party emerged from the Moroccan Action Committee and was established in 1967. Dr. Abdul Kareem al-Khatib, founder of the party, is considered one of the main leaders of resistance and the Moroccan Army of Liberation, and enjoys close ties with the Royalty.

Unlike the total independence of the Justice and Development Party and the Movement for Unity and Reform, the Tunisian Ennahda was established based on the Muslims Brotherhood’s approach in 1969. However, its relations with the worldwide-Muslims Brotherhood was always tense due to differences in perspectives and views.

The Tunisian party has tried since 1987 to become a legitimate political party that works under the constitution and the Tunisian law. Therefore, the party submitted two applications to obtain legal authorizations, but the Ministry of Interior refused both. On the first of March 2011, Ennahda became a legitimate party for the first time, and received the authorization of Mohammad al-Ghannouchi government’s following the revolution. It was the biggest winner in the elections and formed a government with Congress for the Republic party.

The Justice and Development Party has benefited from the political openness in Morocco 1992. The Moroccan Royalty never oppressed the Islamists, as happened in Tunisia that adopted an eradication policy with the Islamic movement and particularly with Ennahda during Bin Ali’s rule.

This political openness in Morocco came in line with a new religious policy, and the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs organized public intellectual religious manifestations, in which participated a number of eminent Islamic leaders including Rached Ghannouchi. This Moroccan political openness that included the Tunisian Ennahda enhanced the links between the Islamists in Morocco and Tunisia.

The relations between both parties were deep and witnessed many meetings while the Justice and Development was in the opposition in its country and the Ennahda was exiled to Morocco. The coordination between them continued after the revolution of 2011. Since 2012, the meetings between both parties have focused on the separation of religion from politics.

In 2015, Ennahda called its main officials to submit a paper on the separation subject before the members of Shura Council of the party in the Tunisian capital. Obviously, the intellectual approach between the two parties unified their view concerning the religious extremism. They both refused violence while they were in power, and made daring stances concerning Islamic and secular extremism.

Justice and Development and Ennahda stress on their Islamic background and on their identity as two reformist and democratic parties that believe in rotation of power, partnership, and deliberation in the rule. Their actions emphasized their principles and disproved the allegations of their ideological rivals who accused them of hypocrisy.

In 2011, the Justice and Development Party formed the government with the former Moroccan Communist Party and offered it portfolios that exceed its parliamentary share. It also allied with the Independence Party in the first government and maintained its alliance with the Amazighs.

Ennahda in Tunisia announced that it will not become a candidate for the presidential elections in the first and second election in 2014, and that it will form a cabinet with the parties that accept to ally with it regardless of their ideologies. Unlike expectations, both parties considered religion as a personal freedom and focused on economic, social, and development affairs like resolving the unemployment problem among the youth.

Both parties avoided any confrontation with the state’s institutions like the army and didn’t intervene with the rule. They also supported the security forces in their war against the extremist groups and opposed the political isolation law that targeted symbols from Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.

The Tunisian Ennahda supported the return of Tunisians to their country including the former president and called for handing him over his national passport.

The political practice of both Ennahda and Justice and Development shows the common mentality of the both Islamic factions, especially how they dealt with the structure of the undemocratic Arabic country and the global environment. In many events, the secretary general of the Justice and development party said that he doesn’t aim to fight with the King, and that he intends to cooperate with him to serve the country.

While both parties have not made remarkable achievements in the economic and social fields in their respective countries, they actually committed to the approach of national partnership, refused the monopoly of the authority, offered cooperation with the different legitimate political movements, avoided conflicts with the state-run institutions in the country, and decisively opposed terrorism.

All the mentioned factors contributed to maintaining stability in the countries of those parties, and also led to enhance human rights and pubic freedoms in two countries that are seeking to build a modern democratic state and are refusing to be involved in bloody civil wars.