Daily Israel Report

Tunisian Opposition Attracting More Protesters than Islamists

The Islamist party which rules Tunisia is losing the battle on the streets, as it attracts fewer and fewer protesters.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/15/2013, 4:13 AM

Anti-government protesters in Tunis
Anti-government protesters in Tunis
Reuters

The Islamist Ennahda party which rules Tunisia is losing the battle for the public opinion, according to the Tunisian-based Business News.

A translated version of the French-language report appeared on the Al-Monitor website on Wednesday.

According to Business News, the opposition has been able to get greater numbers of protesters onto the streets in recent weeks.

On August 13, while Ennahda barely managed to mobilize 2,000 protesters, the democratic bloc’s counter-protest gathered more than 150,000 people in a new display of public strength.

The Ennahda protest started about 4:00 p.m. It reportedly only gathered some 1,000 to 2,000 people, marking a shy presence, despite the typical mobilization techniques of the ruling party. The significant organization and the numerous deployed buses failed to gather enough legitimate supporters, and the protest turned out to be a flop, reported Business News.

Facing them were many women of various ages — in addition to some men and children — with the national flag in hand. The protesters displayed portraits of Chokri Belaid and Mohammed Brahmi, two opposition leaders who were murdered in recent months.

Feminist slogans, in addition to other more politicized slogans attacking Islamist leaders Rachid Ghannouchi and Ali Laareydh, were also chanted by the crowd. Calls to overthrow the government and the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) could be heard as well.

Among the remarkable speeches of the evening was that of Brahmi’s widow who, addressing the government, said, “You are nothing but rats and cowards, but we will not crush you. We will release you so you can clear off.”

“These massive crowds today represent real pride. Our heads are held high and you have made us proud,” she added, according to Business News.

According to the report, observers are now convinced that with every passing day, Tunisians are getting closer to liberation from this transitional phase and from Islamist rule.

Tunisia is the country which kicked off the so-called “Arab Spring”, when popular protests caused former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia in January 2011.

The Ennahda party, which has been described as moderate Islamist, ascended to power in the first democratic elections in the country following Ben Ali’s ouster, receiving 89 out of 217 seats, more than triple the seats won by any other party.

Belaid was killed by a gunman outside his Tunis home on February 6. That killing enflamed simmering tensions between liberals and Islamists in the once proudly secular Muslim nation, with Belaid's family accusing Ennahda of his assassination, a charge the Islamists strongly denied.

Brahimi, 58, a prominent member of the Arab nationalist Popular Front party, was shot by two men on a moped in July. That murder, as well, resulted in protests.