Reasons Tunisian Ennahda Lost Recent Election
By Adel al-Thabti
It was clear since its inception in June 2012 that the Nidaa Tounes party is an undeclared coalition between the members of the dissolved Democratic Constitutional Rally (DRC), the party of the former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and trade unionists and leftists from various walks of the left and some independents.
According to its discourse since its inception, Nidaa presented itself as an alternative to Ennahda Movement and its allies in the power-sharing “troika” government, Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties, and the Congress for the Republic.
In light of this, the party mobilized all its powers in the campaign for the legislative elections in the period between October 4 and 24 in order to rally its supporters, sometimes relying on the tactic of frightening the electorate from Ennahda that it might restrict the personal freedoms of Tunisians.
This paid-off among a sector of Tunisian electorates despite repeated assurances by Ennahda.
Absence of Media Strategy
Seemingly, Ennahda was not able to manage a dialogue with the influential and capable Tunisian media establishment, something that can be attributed to the absence of a clear media policy for the party; hence, it was not able to direct compelling messages to this sector of the Tunisians in the face of the policy of fear used by Nidaa.
Ennahda was able to gather large crowds in its election meetings through good advertising campaigns compared to other forces, which worried its opponents who considered it as a show of power. Consequently, they were able to forge secret electoral alliances in order to manage a good battle and defeat an adversary that cannot be defeated in a state of dispersion.
Perhaps what proves the existence of that secret alliance is the fact that the DRC — which ran on several party lists — had one of its leaders, according to some sources, voting in a polling station that ended up getting almost no votes for the DRC, implying that his vote and those of the DRC supporters went to the Nidaa party.
Therefore, there is a possibility that Ennahda adversaries of the constitutional leftist bloc had settled one way or another to focus their votes in support of Nidaa in order to avoid a costly defeat in front of Ennahda.
Some other analysts say that some leftists in some constituencies have voted for Nidaa with an aim of changing the balance of power, which made the party get the highest percentage of seats in the people’s assembly elections.
Absence of Alliances
Often, leftist demonstrators chanted slogans against Ennahda’s president Rashid Ghannouchi across many parts of the country accusing him of responsibility for the assassination of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid, who was assassinated by affiliates of the Ansar al-Sharia’h Islamic movement in 2013 as indicated by the investigations of the Ministry of Interior.
According to some observers, Ennahda’s failure in managing some economic issues and attending to social demands during the time of the troika government remains a secondary reason for their loss in the elections compared to the party’s failure to manage the battle of image distortion.
Some Ennahda members helped in the image distortion through their unstudied appearances in satellite and radio programs.
Finally, it may suffice to say that the Nidaa party found more than an ally to support it even from outside its political spectrum, at a time when there was no available influential ally to aid Ennahda, which made it face alone several political forces in the elections, with its initial mass support-base rendering useless.