Islamists gain in Tunisian elections

Submitted by Matthew on 26 October, 2011 - 11:41

After elections in Tunisia the neo-liberal, Islamist party Nahda will probably be the biggest party in the new Constituent Assembly. As of 25 October the votes are still being counted, but Nahda is estimated to have won around a third of the vote.

The following article was written by Wafa Guiga, a Tunisian activist and member of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) living in France.

Some days away from the election of the Constituent Assembly, the political debate is focused on the question of religious identity, in order to hide the social and democratic problems which persist despite the fall of Ben Ali.

Press reports about Tunisia only concern the Salafist demonstrations. The broadcasting on a private TV channel of the movie Persepolis by French-Iranian Marjane Satrapi was the pretext for violent demonstrations at first by dozens and then by hundreds of Salafists, who went so far as to threaten the Chief Executive of the TV channel with death.

One week before the election, the public debate was reduced to the question of religious identity.

That the representation of God as an old bearded man should provoke such violence shows that Tunisian society contained a level of obscurantism that the dictatorship covered up by force and repression.

This episode worked to the advantage of Nahda (close to the Muslim Brotherhood), which appears — by comparison [to the Salafists] — to be moderate and non-violent!

The struggle against obscurantist ideas is urgent today, in a country where the Islamists are trying to take over the revolutionary process. Meanwhile, the manipulation of the identity issue, using the far right, is a well-known method! We know how useful it is for maintaining the established order and for making people forget economic and social issues.

Unemployment is as grave as ever in Tunisia. Record inflation is affecting staple food prices. All sorts of speculation has created a milk shortage in a country which has exported it for 20 years. The country is groaning under the odious debt acquired by Ben Ali. Ben Ali and Co’s ill-gotten wealth has still not been handed over to the population.

In this context, the provisional government is committing the country to the “Jasmine Plan”, a five-year “relaunch” plan, of €60billion, with a top-to-bottom restructuring of work. A plan which will force the country further into debt… the example of Greece shows us what the consequences could be!

Police repression is [also] going on, with arrests and attacks on political activists. The media is still running official propaganda.

Faced with this situation, the mobilisations are continuing, even if they are still dispersed.

Strikes in the banking sector, among artisans in the Medina of Tunis, in textile factories, in the post and the rails are still demanding an improvement in working conditions and an increase in salaries.

The return of students to university in October saw students fighting in several campuses to get rid of old RCDist university managers.

The leadership of the [trade union federation] UGTT is calling for the strikes to stop until 23 October, entertaining some illusions in the results of the elections.

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