The Ennahda (Renaissance) Movement in Tunisia is witnessing an escalating struggle between its leaders. This is mainly due to the problematic succession of Rached al-Ghannouchi as the head of the Movement, considering that the Movement has become divided between two groups, one of them advocating the continuation of Ghannouchi as the Movement’s leader by renewing his candidacy for a third presidential term to maintain the Movement’s stability and survival at the forefront of the country’s political scene, while the other refusing to amend the Movement’s internal law which stipulates that Ghannouchi may not assume the leadership of the Movement for more than two consecutive terms.
On 16 October 2020, the Group of Hundred within the Ennahda Movement renewed its objection to Ghannouchi's insistence on running for a new term as president of the Movement, prior to the Movement’s Eleventh Conference which is scheduled to be held before the end of 2020. Indications have emerged of the struggle of the wings within the Movement in terms of the multiple resignations of the historical and youth leaders from the Movement’s membership, the disagreement over the policies and positions of the Movement’s President on internal and external issues, and the exchange of accusations between the Movement’s leaders regarding attempts of exclusion and the creation of "parallel" entities.
Contradictory views within the Ennahda regarding the succession of Ghannouchi
Ennahda’s members were divided over the issue of Ghannouchi's succession in terms of supporters of his stay and opponents to it. The group supporting Ghannouchi’s continued leadership of the Movement for a third time after the 2012 and 2016 terms relied on a number of considerations, the most important of which are the following:
On the other hand, the group opposing Ghannouchi's stay as the leader of the Movement, represented by the so-called Group of Hundred, including members of the Executive Office, the Shura (Consultative) Council, and the parliamentary bloc within the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP, the Tunisian Parliament), as well as some local leaders (such as Abd al-Latif al-Makki, Noureddine al-Arabawi, Fathi al-Ayadi, Samir Dilou, and others) sent a signed to memorandum to Rached al-Ghannouchi, on 16 September 2020, in which they demanded that he announces that he is not running for the leadership of the Movement again, at the next conference scheduled for the end of 2020. The signatories to the memorandum based their rejection on a number of considerations, mainly the following:
Indications of the escalation of the disagreement between the wings within the Ennahda Movement
The likely scenarios for Ennahda’s future and president
In addition, there is a periodic election process taking place within the Ennahda Movement to resolve the conflict between opinions or the competition between individuals within it, such as the process of electing a new president of the Ennahda’s parliamentary bloc, as a successor to Noureddine Bhiri, in which two personalities were nominated, namely Imed Khemiri (the Ennahda spokesman who has the support of Rached al-Ghannouchi) and Fathi al-Ayadi (former head of the Ennahda Shura Council and one of the advocates of the rejection of extension for Ghannouchi). The competition ended in favour of Khemiri who won 31 votes, against 21 votes for al-Ayadi. This was considered by observers a success for Rached al-Ghannouchi's wing because this electoral result constitutes the victory of a certain segment within the party.
The solution may be through the party structures and the implementation of what is stated in the internal regulations, or as some call it "the Conference is the master of itself", so that the Movement’s internal statutes would be revised.
In the final analysis, all three of the aforementioned scenarios remain plausible, with the possibility of the emergence of a "hybrid" scenario that combines elements of one or another of the scenarios. This indicates that the issue of Ghannouchi's succession reflects the manifestations of fragmentation within the Ennahda Movement, although Ghannouchi's wing seems capable of overcoming the crises faced by both the Movement and its president, both inside Parliament and within the Movement itself.
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