After Morsi’s Ouster in Egypt, Tunisia’s Islamists Fear a Similar Fate

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Chedly Ben Ibrahim / Demotix / Corbis

Following the call of the ruling Ennahda party, dozens of Tunisian supporters gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in Tunis in support of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on July 7, 2013

There’s one place that has watched the past two weeks of violence in Egypt with particular nervousness: Tunisia, the country that ignited the entire Arab Spring back in January 2011. With Egypt’s elected President now ousted and in military custody, along with several of his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues, Tunisia’s ruling party finds itself as the only Islamist government in the region. That’s an anxious spot to be, especially when there’s the possibility of fresh revolt or of militants seizing on Egypt’s military intervention as proof that democratic politics is futile. “What happened in Egypt is a real threat to democracy because we saw the overthrow of a legitimate President,” said Mohammed Omar, a member of the political bureau of Tunisia’s ruling Islamic party, Ennahda, the senior partner in a three-party coalition that runs the country, speaking by phone from Tunis. “I don’t think any country is secure now from what happened in Egypt.”

Given the intense battles that have raged on Cairo’s streets since June 30, it’s easy to forget Tunisia’s pivotal role in Egypt’s revolution back in January 2011. One month before Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square to demand Hosni Mubarak’s downfall, Tunisians mounted giant protests against Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s 24-year dictatorship, which electrified the region and drove the President from office in just five weeks. When the Egyptian revolution began days later, several protesters carried Tunisia’s red-and-white flag into Tahrir Square, in homage to the revolution that had emboldened them. For months after that, the two countries — one tiny, the other the Arab world’s most populous — seemed to track each other closely: Islamist parties won democratic elections, while secular and religious camps battled over the legal framework for new constitutions.

Yet in one crucial aspect Tunisia and Egypt took very different paths: While Morsi shut out dissidents and strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt, Tunisia’s Ennahda government runs the country in partnership with two smaller secular parties, one controlling the presidency under Moncef Marzouki, and the other in control of the assembly to draft the constitution — crucial to thrashing out how rigidly Islamic the country’s legal system will be. With Egypt racked by chaos and political instability, Tunisians are hoping that their coalition — a delicate arrangement fraught with infighting — might stave off a similar eruption at home. “In Tunisia, we anticipated what happened in Egypt,” Omar says. “We chose to give an opportunity for secular parties to share with us, and that excludes the intervention of the military or anything like that.”

But peace is not totally assured. Tunisia’s Islamist rulers have railed against the Egyptian military’s ouster of Morsi, with Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi calling on Muslim Brotherhood members to stay on Cairo’s streets until Morsi is freed. After Egyptian security forces opened fire on a Muslim Brotherhood gathering on July 8, killing more than 50 people, Ghannouchi issued an enraged statement, saying that “putschist forces committed a massacre against peaceful protesters supporting the legitimate President,” and called on Egyptians to “reject the coup and support the pro-democratic legitimacy front.”

Ghannouchi’s fury of course has had little effect on the situation in Egypt. And instead, some Tunisians believe a similar upheaval to Egypt might be possible, especially with rising dissatisfaction over the government’s seeming inability to improve a tepid economy or to rein in more militant Islamic groups, one of which assassinated a beloved secular opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, last February. “Tunisia does not seem immune to what happened in Egypt,” political analyst Youssef Ouaslati told Reuters on Friday. “The Brothers in Tunisia may face a similar fate, especially in light of an unprecedented rapprochement between divergent political currents in the opposition to remove Islamists from power.” In May, Tunisian police battled to stop protests by the militant Ansar al-Sharia from spiraling into violence; and last week, Marzouki renewed for three months the security forces’ state of emergency powers, which have been in effect since Ben Ali’s downfall.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s mammoth protests that drove out Morsi have galvanized secular activists in Tunisia. Recently, they have formed a new movement, calling itself Tamarod, or “rebel” — the name of Egypt’s mass protest movement that sought to bring down Morsi — and claims to have collected 200,000 signatures calling for the government to dissolve parliament and organize early elections. Perhaps most worrying for Ghannouchi and his Islamist government, Tunisia’s Tamarod has called for mass antigovernment protests on July 25, the anniversary of Tunisia’s independence from France. That echoes the June 30 date Egypt’s Tamarod picked to kick off its anti-Morsi revolt.

Ghannouchi faces added pressure from a new secular political organization called Nidaa Tounes, which has grown rapidly since last year and which wants the government dissolved, much like Egypt’s grassroots campaign that undid Morsi. “Tunisia and Egypt, it’s like a Ping-pong ball,” says Nabil Karoui, head of Nessma TV, a secular network based in Tunis, speaking by phone from there. “We started the revolution, and then it moved there, and then when things arise here, it arises there.” Karoui, who was convicted last year of offending Islam for broadcasting the French-Iranian movie Persepolis, says he believes the violence in Egypt “makes our government and the Islamists very anxious. They are scared that it is coming here.”

Despite that, even some of the Islamists’ fiercest critics seem loath to risk Egyptian-style chaos, if they dare to rock the religious-secular partnership that runs Tunisia. “Our hearts are with Egypt,” Mouldi Riahi, a secular lawmaker told a local reporter last week. “But we do not want Tunisia to be in its shoes.”

47 comments
Ajaz707
Ajaz707

@KateSeelye @TIMEWorld But there are certain fundamentals where there can be no compromise for Islam. Islamic system of governance is unique

mohd_almajed
mohd_almajed

@itamimi أراك مكثر من متابعة الشأن المصري وفضح من ينقل ما يجري لديهم

RezonTolive
RezonTolive

@TIME @TIMEWorld any regimes not complying with the will of their people or lead that will to personal interests will face the same destiny

twsgy
twsgy

@TIME @TIMEWorld they need to fear! Never be hapi for a fire at the neighbor it will spread to your property

MehdiLamloum
MehdiLamloum

@Abeyphonogenic It's different in Tunisia. We elected a Constitutional assembly and not a president. The assembly is in trouble now...

RezonTolive
RezonTolive

@TIME @TIMEWorld fro now&on any regimes not complys with the will of their people, or trying to lead that will to personal interests ll face

ChrisShane12
ChrisShane12

@TIME @TIMEWorld BooHoo it's about time the muslims learn that the world hates them and they're ways aren't acceptable -_-

TrueDemocracy
TrueDemocracy

6 month ago , The Times call "Morsi" an democrat president,  a  men of peace , day after day after the fall of Morsi the Egyptian  discover the bad  bloody face of he Muslim Brotherhood , their Lie's ,their dirty game's ,  and  their Double tongued speech ! Can Miss Vivienne Tell Us How she know that The Two  other part associated to Islamist of Enahda are "secular" ? does Miss Vivienne Know that the actual president Marzouki and Ben Jaaffer (president of the assembly) are just two puppets in the hand of Ghannouchi ? the proof they didn't take any decision , because all power are  between Enahda hand  , she (Enahda) just put them  , to show the illusion that they (islamist) are ok with  "secular" ... and they are an Extraordinary coalition between islamist and secular ..and the reality it is just an decoration for the west. (Ask The Ministry that resign from the gov they will tell you more about this counter verity of  Secular and Islamist alliance )

The islamist  tell good thing and nice words to the West   and do the exact opposite in their country , they use Militia to intimidate the population , they try to put an strange way of life in the modern society etc etc ....  To finish they do nothing to Tunisian:

*Economy are fallen every day , (See US Embassy of Tunis that talk about the lie of the The Tunisian Ministry of Economy)

*Prices of Food rise day after day (+20% in less than one year)

*Insecurity :(Salafist are free to intimidate the peoples)

*The Intimidate the journalist and the freedom of press (Sami Fehri case...)

*Unfair judgment :(judgement of The US Embassy case and salafist  /Amina Femen case...) 

*The corruption :islamist  put all their relative in power , to take salary without doing anything

*No clear roadmap of election and they do all the manipulate the election....

So to terminate Thing in Tunisia is same or worst than  Egypt , They are 10 million of Tunisian as   hostage of an Fascist Government that come to power by bailout box exactly as Hitler Comes... enough is enough .... peaceful Tunisian are determinate to oust them from power ...I hope that the US didint Mess this chance to support the Tunisian!

More info Her  about the actual situation in Tunisia >> http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-muravchik-tunisia-arab-spring-20130716,0,192972.story

dearrok
dearrok

@vivwalt Islamist and democracy don't mix,Sahbi Attig just promises blood and tears to the Tunisians if they follow the egyptian model

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Tunisia (and the rest of the Middle East) has to get with the program.

We don't live in the 8th, 9th, or 10th centuries anymore.  Theocratic governments are obsolete.  In other words, Islamists do not belong ANYWHERE in the governments of those countries.  Organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood have been shown to cause more harm than good.

It would be better if a citizens' revolt got rid of the Islamists, and installed a modern, secular government in its place. 

TutAnkhAmon
TutAnkhAmon

Egyptian army and police had been under constant daily attacks from Al Qaeda terrorists in the Sinai since the removal of Morsi.  Tunisians better remove these radicals ASAP as the more they wait, the more difficult it become.


TutAnkhAmon
TutAnkhAmon

Morsi's openly displayed his support for terrorism in his first day in office:

1. Vowed to free the blind sheikh jailed in US in the first WTC bombing
2. Pardoned and released Hundreds of convicted terrorists

He later advocated arming the organ eating, children killers, foreign mercenaries of Wahhabi Qatar in Syria.

Morsi in 2010: No to Negotiations with the Blood-Sucking, Warmongering "Descendants of Apes and Pigs"; Calls to Boycott U.S. Products

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3NCiaozL0k

Morsi in 2010: We Must Nurse Our Children and Grandchildren on Hatred of Jews

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCopdzv29WY

adelmobaraktr
adelmobaraktr

@ifikra All Egyptians will support Tunisia resque from islamist, god will resque you

kemetftc
kemetftc

@TIME @TIMEWorld what do they expect when they fought had to rule people who do not know what they want via objective lenses. Emotions

StanleyLohr
StanleyLohr

@TIME. Your 22 April 'The Missing Universe' by M Lemonick makes no reference to God the Creator! How come?

Karl
Karl

If you erase all the criticisms of your story you'll never have any. Maybe that's the idea. Kill the messenger unless it's your own paid flack. 

Tarek_1961
Tarek_1961

@TIMEWorld Egypt new massacre: Police fire on anti-coup demonstrators: 40 killed so far, ambulances prevented from evacuating wounded

KDilkington
KDilkington

@mrbomb13 its the problem with the notion of democracy for places ravaged by religious fail. if even 10% are willing to support extreme islamists, and some small handful of those will eat hearts and slaughter, they will get seats by hook or crook and they have no willingness to participate in a democracy. their aim is to impose the sharia across the globe

AkramAlsaidi
AkramAlsaidi

@TutAnkhAmon Do you actually believe the garbage that you write. The "terrorist"  who had a glued on beard on the roof top. 

sammyboy8408
sammyboy8408

@TutAnkhAmonhow many websites do you post on tutankh?? you paid isreali bloggers think you can spam websites with your propaganda? No one is being fooled

Isreali jews consider ALL NON JEWS TO BE BEASTS AS STATED IN THE TALMUD

sammyboy8408
sammyboy8408

@adelmobaraktr @ifikra rescue from the government they voted in?? Thats some logic there

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@sammyboy8408  

jews can consider me a "beast" all they want, so long as they don't kill me. if you people could do the same and just consider me an "infidel" without trying to kill me and people like me simply for being different, then people probably wouldn't have a problem with islam. but you can't, can you?

sammyboy8408
sammyboy8408

@TutAnkhAmon @AkramAlsaidi how many websites do you post on tutankh?? you paid isreali bloggers think you can spam websites with your propaganda? No one is being fooled