Despite being the wellspring of the Arab Spring, Tunisia hasn’t gotten much attention. But the counterrevolution that took down the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt really began in Tunisia.
Back in October of last year, I predicted that Egypt and Tunisia were both headed for Counterrevolutions against Islamist rule. The revolution in Egypt happened and the protests and unrest in Tunisia has been growing.
Tunisia’s ruling Islamists rejected on Monday a plan for them to step down pending elections, deepening a confrontation with secular opponents that threatens the most promising democratic transition to have emerged from the Arab Spring.
The Islamist government that replaced Tunisia’s longtime ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali had on Thursday cautiously agreed to talks on stepping down, after reading opposition protests as a sign it is time to compromise instead of digging in.
On Monday it appeared to take a step back.
“We cannot accept the threat of pressure from the streets,” said Ennahda vice president Adb el Hamid Jelassi. “There should be more guarantees.”
Stubbornness was the undoing of its affiliate in Egypt – the Muslim Brotherhood which won office through the ballot box after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak but alienated the masses and the army by refusing to share power.
“We have said that this government would not step down concretely before the completion of the constitution,” Rafik Abd Essalem, a senior Ennahda official, told reporters.
Of course they intend to lock in the constitution first. That’s their endgame. But the Morsi constitution is already being rewritten. No reason that the Ennahda one can’t be.
UPDATE: Ennahda down.
Tunisia’s governing Islamist party has agreed to step down following negotiations with opposition parties that begin next week.
A spokesman for the main labor union said months of talks with the Islamist-led government had finally reached an agreement Saturday. Bouali Mbarki of the UGTT union said the deal calls for three weeks of negotiations to appoint an interim, non-partisan government.