With efforts to form a coalition government in Tunisia underway, it would appear that the Ennahda Party is excluding its closest opponent, Qalb Tunis, from a "Coalition of Opposites", and is building a coalition with four smaller parties instead.
In Tunisia, the efforts to form a new government following the recent parliamentary and presidential elections continue. Despite signs last week that the Ennahda and Qalb Tunis (Heart of Tunis) parties were preparing to form a government under the “Coalition of Opposites“, it would appear that the political winds have shifted.
Although trailing closely behind Ennahda during the parliamentary elections and conceding the position for the Speaker of Parliament to Ennahda’s preferred candidate, Rached Ghannouchi, Qalb Tunis has found itself isolated from the government formation. Instead, Habib Jamli, who has been given the mandate to form a government by President Qais Said, appears to be working towards a coalition government led by Ennahda and made up of numerous other, smaller parties.
At present, four parties are set to be involved in a coalition government: Ennahda, Dignity Coalition (Karama), Harakat al-Shaab (People’s Movement) and the Democratic Current Party. Dignity Coalition had been supporting Ennahda since the beginning and the two seem to be natural allies. Harakat al-Shaab and the Democratic Current Party, however, had expressed opposition. It would appear that Ennahda has managed to bring those two parties on board for a coalition at the expense of Qalb Tunis.
The exact reasons for Qalb Tunis being excluded remain unclear. Both Ghannouchi and Ennahda Party have been accused of publicly talking about having an inclusive government while privately looking to push Qalb Tunis aside and pressuring the Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed – whose Yahya Tunis (Long Live Tunisia) Party performed poorly at the parliamentary elections – to do so. However, it is possible that Ennahda preferred to partner with a group of weaker parties, as opposed to partnering with one party that it was almost evenly matched with in electoral power while at the same time being ideologically in opposites, leaving the government more vulnerable to deadlocks.
Despite the seemingly unexpected turn following talks about a Coalition of Opposites, fractures between the two parties had already been apparently. In addition to ideological divisions, Ennahda was also vocal and consistent in its statements that it would not form a coalition government with Qalb Tunis. Ennahda had also excluded another party, the Free Constitutional Party, which had vocally opposed Ennahda’s participation in the elections.
With Qalb Tunis still holding significant percentage of the parliament, and with Ennahda now negotiating with four parties instead of one, forming a government will remain a tricky matter. However, numerous officials have said that Habib Jamli has a plan for government formation.
For Tunisia’s maturing democracy, the coming days will be critical.