There are signs in Tunisia that the Qalb Tunis party will form a "Coalition of Opposites" with Ennahda after the former supported the latter's candidate for the Speaker of the Parliament, Rachid Ghannouchi.
With the completion of Parliamentary and Presidential elections, Tunisia is working to form a new government. Having gained the most votes during recent Parliamentary elections, the Ennahda and Qalb Tunis (Heart of Tunisia) parties have emerged as the main political forces in the country and are expected to form a coalition government. However, this “Coalition of Opposites” has deep ideological divisions that will make the formation of the government difficult.
Among the most notable developments to take place in the government formation process was the election of Rachid Ghannouchi as the Speaker of the Parliament. Ghannouchi was nominated by the Ennahda Party in opposition to Qalb Tunis nominee, Abdel Aziz Belkhouja. However, in a move that surprised even the members of Qalb Tounis, the party ultimately shifted its support to Ghannouchi, resulting in him getting elected as the Speaker of the Parliament. Belkhouja has since resigned from Qalb Tunis.
Developments such as these highlight the divisions not just between parties but also within parties. Especially for Qalb Tunis, these splits could be especially dangerous, given that the party came second in the Parliamentary elections – trailing closely behind Ennahda – and whose presidential candidate, the controversial business tycoon Nabil Karoui, lost against the Ennahda-supported Qais Said.
Qalb Tunis was only founded in June 2019 and thus does not have strong or established history or coherence. Furthermore, Ennahda has, so far, indicated that it would not form a coalition government with Qalb Tunis. It is possible that Qalb Tunis’ decision to back Ghannouchi was a way to extract a compromise from Ennahda to form a coalition government.
If so, parties such as Tahya Tunis (Long Live Tunisia), whose chairman, Youssef Chahed, is the Prime Minister of Tunisia, will be disappointed, as the party had rejected the idea of forming a coalition with Ennahda.
Despite the bleak and uncertain look, the relatively cordial process in which the negotiations have proceeded, in addition to the relatively stable elections, raise hopes for the future of Tunisian democracy. Despite many tensions, Tunisian parties have shown themselves to be capable of negotiating towards a common solution and compromising when needed. Although the path ahead will not be easy and a number of major challenges remain, these developments are, on the whole, a source of hope, not concern, for Tunisia.