Rached Ghannouchi

Rached Ghannouchi is the co-founder, leader, and president of Ennahda (a.k.a. El-Nahda), a Tunisian political party that emerged from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.Monica Marks, “Tunisia’s Ennahda: Rethinking Islamism in the context of ISIS and the Egyptian coup,” Brookings Institution, August 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Tunisia_Marks-FINALE.pdf; Marc Lynch, “Rached Ghannouchi: the FP interview,” Foreign Policy, December 5, 2011, https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/12/05/rached-ghannouchi-the-fp-interview/. Ghannouchi has reportedly also associated with representatives of extremist groups, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST)Bill Roggio, “‘Moderate’ Islamist Leader in Tunisia Strategizes with Al Qaeda-linked Salafists,” Long War Journal, October 16, 2012, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/10/moderate_islamist_le.php; Aaron Y. Zelin, “Tunisia: Uncovering Ansar al-Sharia,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 25, 2013, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/tunisia-uncovering-ansar-al-sharia. and global Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir,Bill Roggio, “‘Moderate’ Islamist Leader in Tunisia Strategizes with Al Qaeda-linked Salafists,” Long War Journal, October 16, 2012, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/10/moderate_islamist_le.php. an extremist group banned from operating in at least 13 countries worldwide.“Hizb ut-Tahrir,” Counter Extremism Project, accessed May 31, 2016, https://www.counterextremism.com/threat/hizb-ut-tahrir. He has since renounced his and Ennahda’s Islamist positions and claims that “Islam is never in contradiction with democracy.”Zvi Bar’el, “Tunisia Could Be on Verge of New Revolution: Separating Religion and Politics,” Ha’aretz (Tel Aviv), May 28, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.721863; Carlotta Gall, “Tunisian Islamic Party Re-elects Moderate Leader,” New York Times, May 23, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/world/africa/tunisia-rachid-ghannouchi-ennahda.html.

Ghannouchi has received multiple international honors for his work in fostering Tunisia’s democratic transition. In 2011, Foreign Policy named him one of its Top 100 Thinkers. While visiting the United States to receive the honor, Ghannouchi met with multiple U.S. officials, journalists, and think tanks, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Marc Lynch, “Rached Ghannouchi: the FP interview,” Foreign Policy, December 5, 2011, https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/12/05/rached-ghannouchi-the-fp-interview/. In 2012, Ghannouchi shared the Chatham House Prize with Tunisian political leader Moncef Marzouki for their work in Tunisia’s democratic transition.“Chatham House Prize 2012 - Rached Ghannouchi and Moncef Marzouki,” Chatham House, accessed March 4, 2019, https://www.chathamhouse.org/chatham-house-prize/2012. In 2015, the International Crisis Group awarded Ghannouchi and Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi the Founder’s Award for their work in peace-building.“Tunisia: Caïd Essebsi and Ghannouchi Receive International Crisis Group Founder's Award,” All Africa, October 27, 2015, https://allafrica.com/stories/201510280454.html.

Born in Tunisia in 1941 and trained as a high school philosophy teacher, Ghannouchi founded Ennahda’s predecessor, the Islamic Tendency Movement (ITM), in 1981, initially drawing inspiration for the party from the Muslim Brotherhood.Carlotta Gall, “Tunisian Islamic Party Re-elects Moderate Leader,” New York Times, May 23, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/world/africa/tunisia-rachid-ghannouchi-ennahda.html; Aidan Lewis, “Profile: Tunisia’s Ennahda Party,” BBC News, October 25, 2011, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-15442859; James M. Markham, “Tunis Journal; A Song of Democracy in a Distinctly Islamic Key,” New York Times, April 14, 1989, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/14/world/tunis-journal-a-song-of-democracy-in-a-distinctly-islamic-key.html. Ghannouchi formed his political views traveling through Syria, Egypt, France, and Iran. He was reportedly enamored with the 1979 Iranian revolution, though he later said the ITM was “in principle against executing people for their ideas” and condemned the Iranian government “if that is what is happening in Iran….”James M. Markham, “Tunis Journal; A Song of Democracy in a Distinctly Islamic Key,” New York Times, April 14, 1989, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/14/world/tunis-journal-a-song-of-democracy-in-a-distinctly-islamic-key.html. Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba banned the ITM shortly after its creation and imprisoned Ghannouchi for four years.Lally Weymouth, “An interview with Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi, three years after the revolution,” Washington Post, December 12, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/an-interview-with-tunisias-rachid-ghannouchi-three-years-after-the-revolution/2013/12/12/7aaaaa5a-62cf-11e3-a373-0f9f2d1c2b61_story.html?utm_term=.f44bbc6e868d.

In 1987, Bourguiba arrested Ghannouchi and dozens of other Islamists on suspicions they were trying to create a Khomeinist-style revolution in Tunisia. Ghannouchi was sentenced to a life of hard labor. In November 1987, Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali overthrew Bourguiba. In May 1988, Ben Ali pardoned and freed Grannouchi and almost 3,000 other Islamists.James M. Markham, “Tunis Journal; A Song of Democracy in a Distinctly Islamic Key,” New York Times, April 14, 1989, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/14/world/tunis-journal-a-song-of-democracy-in-a-distinctly-islamic-key.html.

ITM rebranded as Ennahda in 1989 ahead of Tunisia’s parliamentary elections. Ennahda officially received 17 percent, making it the second-largest political party. Due to fraud allegations, however, some analysts placed the real estimate much higher. Ben Ali banned Ennahda in response to its electoral success, and Ghannouchi went into a 22-year exile in London.“Tunisia’s Ennahda distances itself from political Islam,” Al Jazeera, May 27, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/left-tunisia-ennahda-party-160526101937131.html; Aidan Lewis, “Profile: Tunisia's Ennahda Party,” BBC News, October 25, 2011, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-15442859; “Factbox: Who is Tunisia’s Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi?” Reuters, January 30, 2011, http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2011/01/30/factbox-who-is-tunisias-islamist-leader-rachid-ghannouchi/. Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia in 2011 following the overthrow of Ben Ali in the early days of the Arab Spring. Ghannouchi positioned Ennahda to run in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections, though he did not himself run for office. That October, Ennahda won a plurality of the country’s vote.Ellen McLarney, “Why Arab Spring made life better in Tunisia, failed everywhere else,” Reuters, February 18, 2015, http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/02/18/why-arab-spring-made-life-better-in-tunisia-failed-everywhere-else/;
Zvi Bar’el, “Tunisia Could Be on Verge of New Revolution: Separating Religion and Politics,” Ha’aretz (Tel Aviv), May 28, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.721863;
“Final Tunisian Election results announced,” Al Jazeera, November 14, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2011/11/20111114171420907168.html.
In the lead up to the elections, Ghannouchi and Ennahda promised to improve education, women’s rights, and religious freedom. Ghannouchi held up Turkey’s Justice and Development party (AKP) as an example of how an Islamic political party can rule in a secular country.David D. Kirkpatrick, “Tunisians Vote in a Milestone of Arab Change,” New York Times, October 23, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/24/world/africa/tunisians-cast-historic-votes-in-peace-and-hope.html. With the Muslim Brotherhood ascending in Egyptian politics at the same time as Ennahda, researchers and journalists asked Ennahda members about their relationship with the Brotherhood. In August 2011, Ghannouchi told the Brookings Institution that Ennahda looked more to the AKP than the Brotherhood as an example. Ennahda sought to make people love Islam by convincing them, not coercing them, he told Brookings.Monica Marks, “Tunisia’s Ennahda: Rethinking Islamism in the context of ISIS and the Egyptian coup,” Brookings Institution, August 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Tunisia_Marks-FINALE.pdf.

Ghannouchi and Ennahda have reportedly had a relationship with the terror group Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (AST). The leaders who would go on to form AST reportedly met with Ennahda leaders while in prison prior to the Arab Spring. According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, AST leaders attended meetings at Ghannouchi’s home in 2011 at which he allegedly advised them to encourage AST youth to infiltrate Tunisia’s national army and National Guard. In 2012, Ghannouchi was caught on tape strategizing with AST leaders and advocating for control over the media and other civil institutions.Bill Roggio, “‘Moderate’ Islamist Leader in Tunisia Strategizes with Al Qaeda-linked Salafists,” Long War Journal, October 16, 2012, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/10/moderate_islamist_le.php; Aaron Y. Zelin, “Tunisia: Uncovering Ansar al-Sharia,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 25, 2013, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/tunisia-uncovering-ansar-al-sharia. In the video, Ghannouchi also claimed to have met with representatives of global Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir.Bill Roggio, “‘Moderate’ Islamist Leader in Tunisia Strategizes with Al Qaeda-linked Salafists,” Long War Journal, October 16, 2012, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/10/moderate_islamist_le.php. Although Ennahda ultimately conceded to the Tunisian government’s decision to designate AST as a terrorist organization in August 2013, Ennahda reportedly continued to excuse AST’s violent activities for months beforehand until popular discontent and the growing threat of a political crisis motivated the party to change its stance.Aaron Y. Zelin and Vish Sakthivel, “Tunisia Designates Ansar al-Sharia,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, August 28, 2013, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/tunisia-designates-ansar-al-sharia.

From December 2011 to 2014, Ennahda members Hamadi Jebali and Ali Laarayedh served as successive interim prime ministers of Tunisia,Eileen Byrne, “Tunisia’s Ruling Islamist Party Ennahda Names New Prime Minister,” Guardian (London), February 22, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/feb/22/tunisia-ennahda-prime-minister;
“Tunisia PM Resigns as Part of Transition Plan,” Al Jazeera, January 9, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/tunisia-pm-resigns-as-part-transition-plan-201419145034687910.html.
during which time the party steadily lost support among the Tunisian public.“Tunisian Confidence in Democracy Wanes,” Pew Research Center, October 15, 2014, http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/10/15/tunisian-confidence-in-democracy-wanes/; Michael Robbins, “Five years after the revolution, more and more Tunisians support democracy,” Washington Post, May 20, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/05/20/are-tunisians-more-optimistic-about-democracy-after-5-years-living-under-it/. The party voluntarily relinquished power in January 2014 after Ghannouchi struck a deal with secular political opponents.Carlotta Gall, “A Political Deal in a Deeply Divided Tunisia as Islamists Agree to Yield Power,” New York Times, December 16, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/world/africa/a-political-deal-in-a-deeply-divided-tunisia-as-islamists-agree-to-yield-power.html?module=inline; Carlotta Gall, “Tunisia’s Premier Resigns, Formally Ending His Party’s Rule,” , January 9, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/world/middleeast/tunisias-leader-resigns.html. Ennahda went on to place second in 2014’s elections and enter a coalition government.Amberin Zaman, “Democrat or Islamist firebrand — who is Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi?” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/01/tunisia-ennahda-rached-ghannouchi-islamists-arab-spring.html#ixzz5glwJpydy. Ennahda played a role in drafting and ratifying Tunisia’s constitution in 2014. The constitution emphasized the Tunisian people’s “commitment to the teachings of Islam” while building “a republican, democratic and participatory system….”“Tunisia’s Constitution of 2014,” Constitute, accessed March 1, 2019, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Tunisia_2014.pdf.

The party’s decline in popularity continued into mid-2016 when, in an apparent effort to revitalize the party, Ghannouchi publicly sought to rebrand Ennahda’s platform. In May 2016, Ennahda divorced itself from its Islamist agenda, pledging to pursue a “Muslim democracy” in place of an Islamic state.Zvi Bar’el, “Tunisia Could Be on Verge of New Revolution: Separating Religion and Politics,” Ha’aretz (Tel Aviv), May 28, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.721863. Ghannouchi claimed there was no longer justification for political Islam in Tunisia.Amberin Zaman, “Democrat or Islamist firebrand — who is Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi?” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/01/tunisia-ennahda-rached-ghannouchi-islamists-arab-spring.html#ixzz5glwJpydy.

Ennahda updated its official party platform in May 2016 to emphasize its commitment to working “within the framework of the republican system to contribute to the building of modern Tunisia, a prosperous and interdependent democracy” that embraces its religious identity and social justice.“Party Platform,” Ennahda, accessed March 1, 2019, http://www.ennahdha.tn/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%AA%D9%86%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%AD%D9%87-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A4%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%B1. The platform recognizes the Islamic character of Tunisia but does not call for enforcing Islamic rules on Tunisian society.Amberin Zaman, “Democrat or Islamist firebrand — who is Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi?” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/01/tunisia-ennahda-rached-ghannouchi-islamists-arab-spring.html#ixzz5glwJpydy. The party’s membership requirements call for members to be moral and virtuous, but do not require them to adhere to the Islamic faith.“Engagement,” Ennahda, accessed March 1, 2019, http://www.ennahdha.tn/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%86%D8%AE%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B7.

The party views its commitment to democratic values as necessary for the “struggle” for Arab unity and “the liberation of Palestine.”“Party Platform,” Ennahda, accessed March 1, 2019, http://www.ennahdha.tn/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%AA%D9%86%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%AD%D9%87-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A4%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%B1. Though the platform calls for “the liberation of Palestine,” it does not mention Israel or opposition to the Jewish state. During a 2011 meeting with the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, Ghannouchi declared that Ennahda objected to a constitutional amendment prohibiting normalization with Israel.“Concerning Mr. Rachid Ghannouchi’s Visit to The Washington Institute,” Washington Institute on Near East Policy, December 20, 2011, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/concerning-mr.-rachid-ghannouchis-visit-to-the-washington-institute. In a 2013 interview with the Washington Post, Ghannouchi denied that he had previously predicted the end of Israel. In the same interview, however, he claimed that Hamas is open to a two-state solution while Israel rejects one.Lally Weymouth, “An interview with Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi, three years after the revolution,” Washington Post, December 12, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/an-interview-with-tunisias-rachid-ghannouchi-three-years-after-the-revolution/2013/12/12/7aaaaa5a-62cf-11e3-a373-0f9f2d1c2b61_story.html?utm_term=.9e6f36711afe.

Ghannouchi has also refused to renounce ties with the global Brotherhood movement, casting further skepticism on the sincerity of his new platform.Zvi Bar’el, “Tunisia Could Be on Verge of New Revolution: Separating Religion and Politics,” Ha’aretz (Tel Aviv), May 28, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.721863. In November 2012, Ghannouchi attended an Islamist conference in Khartoum, Sudan, alongside Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie. Ghannouchi declared “the mother of the revolutions was the blessed Palestinian revolution.”Alexander Dziadosz, “Islamist leaders vow unity against Israel,” Reuters, November 15, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-israel-islamists/islamist-leaders-vow-unity-against-israel-idUSBRE8AE1HC20121115. In a 2013 interview with the Washington Post, Ghannouchi denied belonging to the Brotherhood but admitted admiration for the Brotherhood’s former Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi. Ghannouchi defended Morsi against accusations of abuses against protesters. According to Ghannouchi, the Egyptian media had become a mouthpiece for the military government.Lally Weymouth, “An interview with Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi, three years after the revolution,” Washington Post, December 12, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/an-interview-with-tunisias-rachid-ghannouchi-three-years-after-the-revolution/2013/12/12/7aaaaa5a-62cf-11e3-a373-0f9f2d1c2b61_story.html?utm_term=.f44bbc6e868d. In April 2016, a month before his announcement on Ennahda’s new direction, Ghannouchi attended a global Muslim Brotherhood conference in Istanbul.Zvi Bar’el, “Tunisia Could Be on Verge of New Revolution: Separating Religion and Politics,” Ha’aretz (Tel Aviv), May 28, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.721863. He has also continued to serve as a high-ranking member of several Islamist and Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in Europe tied to Qatar-based cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, including the Dublin-based European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR)Jorgen Nielsen, Muslim Political Participation in Europe (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 221. and, according to Reuters, the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) as recently as 2017.“The Start of the General Assembly of the IUMS… and the Palestine and Gaza Cause Being Is Most Prominent in the Speeches Launched,” International Union of Muslim Scholars, August 21, 2014, http://iumsonline.org/en/iums123/news/h1240/; “Ghannoushi: Fundamentalists are a Danger for Tunisia,” International Union of Muslim Scholars, October 3, 2012, http://iumsonline.org/en/iums123/news/d2133/; “Seminar Discusses Women, Family in Tunisia,” International Union of Muslim Scholars, November 12, 2012, http://iumsonline.org/en/iums123/news/seminar-discusses-women-family-tunisia/; “Arab states blacklist Islamist groups, individuals in Qatar boycott,” Reuters, November 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar-security/arab-states-blacklist-islamist-groups-individuals-in-qatar-boycott-idUSKBN1DM2WQ. In November 2017, multiple Gulf countries designated the IUMS as a terrorist organization.“Arab states blacklist Islamist groups, individuals in Qatar boycott,” Reuters, November 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar-security/arab-states-blacklist-islamist-groups-individuals-in-qatar-boycott-idUSKBN1DM2WQ. Ennahda expressed surprise at the designation, asserting that the group is known for its honesty and tolerance.“Saudi Arabia denies including Tunisia’s Ghannouchi on ‘terrorist list,’” Middle East Monitor, November 25, 2017, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171125-saudi-arabia-denies-including-tunisias-ghannouchi-on-terrorist-list/.

Ghannouchi continues to lead Ennahda, though the party is reportedly not united behind his leadership. Critics within the party argue that he has betrayed its Islamist ideals. In a 2016 piece for Foreign Affairs, Ghannouchi wrote that Islamic values still guide Ennahda, but the party is committed to democracy and religious freedom.Rached Ghannouchi, “From Political Islam to Muslim Democracy,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2016, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/tunisia/political-islam-muslim-democracy.

Despite Ennahda’ formal—and seemingly major—platform change in May 2016, Ghannouchi reportedly told Ennahda party members that same month that he was “astounded by those who want to distance religion from national [i.e. political] life.”Zvi Bar’el, “Tunisia Could Be on Verge of New Revolution: Separating Religion and Politics,” Ha’aretz (Tel Aviv), May 28, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.721863. In September 2017, both Tunisian politician Mohsen Marzouk and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi criticized Ennahda for failing to reject its traditional Islamist vision and become more of a civic party.Amel al-Hilali, “Tunisia’s Ennahda struggles to shake political Islam identity,” Al Monitor, December 13, 2017, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/12/tunisia-ennahda-muslim-brotherhood-terrorist-political-islam.html; “Mohsen Marzouq: Ennahda has not been able to turn into a civil movement,” Kapitalis, September 23, 2017, http://www.kapitalis.com/anbaa-tounes/2017/09/23/%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%B2%D9%88%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D9%87%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%85-%D8%AA%D8%AA%D9%85%D9%83%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%88%D9%84-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%AD/; Ahmed Nahdif, “Tunisia’s next elections will put governing alliance to test,” Al Monitor, September 19, 2017, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/09/tunisia-alliance-nidaa-tunis-islamist-ennahda.html.

Ennahda still supports what could be considered traditional Islamist values. For example, Ennahda agreed to guarantee gender equality while helping draft Tunisia’s constitution in 2014. But in August 2018, Ennahda rejected a presidential initiative to grant gender equality in Tunisia’s inheritance law, which allows for a man to receive twice as much of an inheritance as a woman in accordance with sharia.“Tunisia: Ennahda Rejects Inheritance Equality,” Human Rights Watch, September 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/09/06/tunisia-ennahda-rejects-inheritance-equality. Ennahda’s Shura Council—the party’s main governing body—declared that it supports efforts to guarantee women’s rights “in a way that does not contradict the peremptory texts of religion and the provisions of the Constitution.”“Final statement of the 21st session of the Shura Council of the Renaissance Movement,” Ennahda, August 26, 2018, http://www.ennahdha.tn/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-21-%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3-%D8%B4%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%89-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D9%87%D8%B6%D8%A9.

Ghannouchi has publicly defended Ennahda’s commitment to religious freedoms and blamed criticism on a “media war” trying to influence public opinion ahead of Tunisian elections.Amberin Zaman, “Democrat or Islamist firebrand — who is Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi?” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/01/tunisia-ennahda-rached-ghannouchi-islamists-arab-spring.html#ixzz5glwJpydy; “Tunisia declares Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist group,” BBC News, August 27, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-23853241. In a January 2019 Al-Monitor interview, he pointed to Ennahda’s role in legally banning AST in August 2013 under the Ennahda-led government. He declared: “There is only one Islam, but we believe it is a flexible religion that interacts with each environment with each age.”Amberin Zaman, “Democrat or Islamist firebrand — who is Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi?” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/01/tunisia-ennahda-rached-ghannouchi-islamists-arab-spring.html#ixzz5glwJpydy; “Tunisia declares Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist group,” BBC News, August 27, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-23853241. Ghannouchi has also continued to praise Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a role model for Ennahda. Several Tunisia analysts have questioned whether Ghannouchi and Ennahda are sincere in their praise of political and religious freedom or if they are paying lip service to these values in order to avoid a second revolution that would remove them from power.Amberin Zaman, “Democrat or Islamist firebrand — who is Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi?” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/01/tunisia-ennahda-rached-ghannouchi-islamists-arab-spring.html#ixzz5glwJpydy.

With presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled in September and October of 2019, Ennahda continued to declare candidates. In July 2019, Ghannouchi announced he would run in Tunisia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.“Tunisia: Ennahda party leader to stand in parliamentary polls,” Africa News, July 21, 2019, https://www.africanews.com/2019/07/21/tunisia-ennahda-party-leader-to-stand-in-parliamentary-polls/. The following month, Ennahda announced it would field its deputy leader, Abdelfattah Mourou, in Tunisia’s presidential elections.“Tunisia’s Ennahda names its first-ever candidate for presidential elections,” France 24, August 7, 2019, https://www.france24.com/en/20190807-tunisia-ennahda-presidential-elections-Abdel-Fattah-Mourou. Mourou came in third place in a presidential run-off election on September 15, 2019, with 12.9 percent of the vote. With their candidate lacking a clear path to the presidency, Ennahda announced its support for Kais Saied, who won 18.4 percent of the vote.“Moderate Islamist Ennahda backs Saied in Tunisia’s presidential run-off,” Reuters, September 19, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-tunisia-election-islamists-idUKKBN1W42VA. Ennahda fared better in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections on October 6, 2019, winning 52 seats. Though it lost 17 seats from the 2014 election, Ennahda still won the most seats in the country’s 217-seat parliament.“Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party Ennahda to lead fractured new parliament,” Reuters, October 9, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tunisia-election-results-idUSKBN1WO2PD. Among Ennahda’s candidates, Ghannouchi was elected to parliament. He was elected speaker of parliament on November 13.“Tunisia parliament elects Ennahdha’s Rachid Ghannouchi as speaker,” Al Jazeera, November 13, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/13/tunisia-parliament-elects-ennahdhas-rachid-ghannouchi-as-speaker.

In July 2020, Free Constitutional party leader Abir Moussi accused Ghannouchi of serving the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as foreign powers such as Turkey and Qatar. In mid-July 2020, Tunisian political parties opposed to Ennahda sought to launch a no-confidence vote against Ghannouchi.Tarek Amara, “Tunisian parties seek to oust parliament speaker, Islamists want new government,” Reuters, July 12, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tunisia-politics/tunisian-parties-seek-to-oust-parliament-speaker-islamists-want-new-government-idUSKCN24D0NL. A no-confidence vote on Ghannouchi failed on July 30.Ali Abo Rezeg, “Tunisia: No-confidence vote fails to remove Ghannouchi,” Anadolu Agency, July 30, 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/tunisia-no-confidence-vote-fails-to-remove-ghannouchi/1927351.

On July 25, 2021, Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hicham Mechichi and suspended the country’s parliament.“Tunisia’s president accused of ‘coup’ after dismissing PM,” Al Jazeera, July 25, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/25/tunisias-president-dismisses-prime-minister-after-protests. Ghannouchi condemned the move as a “a coup against the revolution and constitution,” while Tunisians took to the streets in protest.“Tunisia’s president accused of ‘coup’ after dismissing PM,” Al Jazeera, July 25, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/25/tunisias-president-dismisses-prime-minister-after-protests. Ghannouchi initially led a sit-in outside of parliament and called for protests similar to the Arab Spring protests of 2011. He soon after called for calm and dialogue, while an Ennahda spokesman said there was an “awareness within Ennahda that we need to avoid escalation and must keep calm in our democracy.”“Tunisia’s president accused of ‘coup’ after dismissing PM,” Al Jazeera, July 25, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/25/tunisias-president-dismisses-prime-minister-after-protests; Tarek Amara and Angus Mcdowall, “Analysis: Tunisia’s political crisis poses existential test for Islamist party,” Reuters, July 29, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/tunisias-political-crisis-poses-existential-test-islamist-party-2021-07-29/.

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