Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tunisia’s former ruling coalition made mistakes, but served to stabilize the country at a critical time, one of its most senior members told Asharq Al-Awsat in an exclusive interview ahead of fresh parliamentary elections next week.
Imed Daimi, the secretary-general of the Congress for the Republic party (CPR), said that he had no regrets about his party’s decision to join the tripartite coalition, known as the troika.
In an interview ahead of Tunisia’s latest round of elections, scheduled for next week, Daimi said: “If we rewind history back and are once again asked to join the alliance with Ennahda within the same context and under the same circumstances, we would choose the same course we chose after the 2011 elections.”
“We in the CPR are convinced today that our choice of joining the troika was right and mainly aimed at serving the interests of Tunisia,” he added.
The CPR joined a government with the Islamist party Ennahda and the leftist Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties (FTDL) after the elections that followed Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, in which Ennahda won a plurality of seats in Tunisia’s parliament.
The agreement saw Ennahda’s leader become prime minister and the CPR’s leader Moncef Marzouki become president, but led to a split in the CPR when several members broke away in the first half of 2012.
The troika government fell following public protests against Ennahda, and agreed to resign in January 2014, paving the way for a technocratic government to oversee the introduction of a new constitution and fresh elections.
Despite claiming that joining the troika had been a necessary step, Daimi admitted that his party had also made mistakes during its time in office.
In particular, he said the alliance had failed to monitor the performance of the government, fulfil political commitments, and assess the standards according to which government appointments were made.
Such mistakes have led the public to believe that Ennahda monopolized decision-making, he argued.
When asked whether this perception was accurate, Daimi said the CPR had offered concessions for the sake of national stability.
He said: “We have suffered from this alliance the most. We sacrificed our internal stability for the sake of that of the country.”
Despite the rifts that were created within the CPR as a result of joining the alliance, Daimi said the troika prevented Tunisia experiencing the chaos and instability that has plagued other states affected by the so-called Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia at the end of 2010.
“We believe the alliance has protected Tunisia against an unknown fate similar to what happened in several other Arab countries such as coups and complete chaos,” he said.
On the subject of next week’s elections, scheduled for Sunday, Daimi said CPR has learned from the mistakes of the troika, particularly the ones relating to “political opportunism, corruption . . . and [use of] populist discourse” and other “fatal mistakes some political parties are still counting on” to gain public support during the forthcoming elections.
As for his party’s ties with Ennahda, Daimi said that the CPR was competing as an independent party in the elections, and “presents itself as a political alternative that is capable of ruling Tunisia and seeks to ensure the majority in the next parliament.”
The CPR has “an integrated project and a presidential candidate who enjoys the trust of many groups of Tunisians and has a high chance of winning the presidency from the first round.”
Despite running as an independent, Moncef Marzouki has been seen as the CPR’s candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections given his long association with the party, which he played a prominent role in founding in 2001.
“Marzouki is the CPR’s candidate but he is running as an independent since he does not have a CPR membership card, having served as the president of all Tunisians,” he said.
Marzouki has decided to contest the elections as an independent candidate in order to maintain a neutral line toward all parties, a step that would allow the CPR to form partnerships with all political parties wanting to join its “national project,” Daimi said.
As for Ennahda’s proposal to agree on a consensus presidential candidate and whether Marzouki can be that person, CPR’s chief said: “We have expressed our rejection of the idea of imposing a consensus presidential candidate on Tunisian voters . . . as it compromises the essence of the electoral process and the spirit of democracy.”
Among all the candidates Marzouki is considered to enjoy the most support from the public and civil society organizations, he added.
Responding to a question about his predictions for the forthcoming legislative elections, Daimi said he expects to secure more than the 29 parliamentary seats his party currently holds.
“We expect to win a greater margin of the trust of Tunisians, which enables us to impose our will in achieving the political, social and economic gains the alliance has failed to achieve.”