By Adel Latifi
The Tunisian elections provide for the first time a chance to read some of the social, political, and cultural transformation in Tunisia on the basis of the free political expressions for citizens through the ballot box.
Lessons from organizational aspects
The Tunisian transitional government had shown unique impartiality in terms of their role that had been limited to the logistical and security sides under the leadership of the army.
This is a point in advantage of the Prime Minister al-Baji Qaid al-Sibsi, which many political forces used to be skeptical of his intentions, including the parties that have achieved positive results in the elections.
It had been alleged that the man had been dug out of Bourigiba or al-Baiat archives, however it shouls be admitted that he had succeeded in the management of the fragile transitional period that had been further weakened by the Libyan war.
The forces attitude may show political haste which explains the naivety of the overt political activity, however it could be understood within the extension of revolutionary uprising which seeks to secure entire breaking of relations with the former regime, which necessitates pressuring the government to listen to the voice of the street.
The higher authority for achieving the revolution's objectives has also had a prominent organizational role. It is considered to be unique in their provision of an observing entity, and their proposal for strong legislations, including the elections law that prevented the Congregation party from running the elections. The independent Supreme Elections Commission had also emerged from it.
The most significant role of the authority is that it had created a ground for consensus among the parties, the civil society forces and the national dignitaries, in the wake of absence of legitimacy, which has strongly contributed to the orderly democratic shift.
However the distinction remains with the independent Supreme authority which organized the electoral process. It was purely Tunisian in its human resources, and financing. It had also remained firm in the face of criticism which had questioned its impartiality.
Al-Nahdha had wreaked its wrath on the authority and its chairman kamal al-Jandobi, when it postponed the elections which was scheduled on July 24.
Rashed al-Ghanoshi, leader of al-Nahdha had gone in an article in al-Jazeera net to the extent of considering the delay as a secular attempt to fend off a potential success of the Islamists.
The authority's attitude towards the election delay became clear today, because of the defects that appeared even in October elections. The elections results have also shown this impartiality, which was the real voting of the Tunisians.
The important lesson derived from the organizational side is that two scarecrows had been left behind. The first one is the allegations of the repressive Arab regimes that used to warn their countries and the world of the dangers of the arrival of the Islamists to power. The other scarecrow is the one the Islamists themselves used to raise regarding their complain of exclusion, marginalization and dereliction.
Implications of the results
There are important preliminary conclusions that are provided by the Tunisian elections, as well as the reactions that followed the elections results.
The conclusions are linked to the general political arena, the turn out level and the historical and cultural perspectives, because there is no one crucial factor among them, but they are rather integrated elements that affect each other.
On the political level it seems that the political voters have revolved around three axes, including the sentiment, the communal emotions and the social perspective as well as the attitude linked to the daily life concern, especially that of the marginalized classes.
These elements explain the victory of al-Nahdha party, the Congress for Republic parties and the broad popular list.
The emotional voting is realized in choosing the Islamist elements, represented by al-Nahdha movement, because Islam is considered to be a guarantee to credibility and honesty in a country that had suffered for a long time from corruption. The choice of Islamists is also a symbolic gesture of choosing the easy way out in a naïve multi- party experience, due to the obscure political scene that contains over 114 political parties and independent lists. It is also attributed to the weak media coverage to the political campaigns.
The same easy way out is also true to the results of the Congress party of al-Marzogi. His political addressing used to be popular, (populiste), within reach of a community that has an experience with political tyranny. Unfortunately the naivety has reached its climax by the Popular Petition Party, which is formed by al-Hashimi al-Hamidi, the owner of al-Mustgila TV channel.
This person was known with his links with the former President Bin Ali, and also known for his hallucinations and exaggerations that were similar to those of Gadafi.
The naivety element is linked to the Petitio' s candidates and their fabulous promises, that challenge all economic theories, such as the free health services, free transportation and imaginary development projects to the internal Tunisian states. The political addressing of the petition had taken advantage of the hardship experienced by many marginalized groups in the interior states and even in the cities. They are promises that the Constituent Assembly cannot fulfill.
The role of the above mentioned elements is realized through the results that depend on the more complicated rational and elite addressing of (modernization, individual freedom, human rights… etc). This is realized in the individual results of each party. The overall results of the Bloc party, the Democratic Progressive Party and the Modernist Pole shows a relative logic of this conclusion.
On the social level the elections results had indicated a communal shift which deprived known elite urban political leaderships of their authorities. This is represented by families in the major coastal cities known for their deep-rooted political authority. This political significance shifted to the new elite, who are the descendants of moderate or poor families of, with semi-urban origin. Al-Marzouki and Rashid Ghannouchi, are examples of this new class that will play a future role in the Tunisian politics.
Another observation could be added within the same context of this sociological trend. It is realized in the growing rural touch, whether in the inner cities or in the large coastal cities. This distinctive rural social aspect which is characterized by the sever social and cultural marginalization, who are pre-occupied with the daily life concerns, have voted energetically to the Popular Petition.
This remote rural areas have found an addressing that they had experienced since Bourgiba period, which used to link the rural areas with the direct intervention of the state, regarding the infrastructures and the grants. The "ruralization" of the big cities and the disconnection of the rural cities from their civilized orientation, points out to the failure of the development method since independence, which created marginalization within the marginalization.
Was al-Nahdha victory inevitable
The answer is yes, because the victory of al-Nahdha Party as an Islamic -oriented movement is settled in advance for any vigilant analyst. This fact does not apply only to the Tunisian case but also to all the future Arab world cases.
The explanation of this is linked to historical and cultural circumstances. Islam as a possible political and communal project as in the modernity period , used to be the dream of elite reformers and politicians in the Arab and Muslim world since the mid-nineteenth century. The search for effective achievement of the standards of Islamic modernity, or at least in the guise of Islam had been strongly presented by al- Tahtawi, al- Afghani and Rashid Rida. The personification of these attempts began in the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, but it collapsed under the influence of Western colonial powers.
The Islamic project could not get out to light during the colonial period because the colonial period has pushed the issue of nationalism and independence to the front. Islam played an important role in this context. Habib Bourguiba was a supporter of the veil but he did not support Taher Haddad after he published his book "our woman in the Sharia and the community in 1930.
The marginalization of Islam as political experience continued after independence as a result of priority to economic and development dominance. Then the dominance of Arab nationalism came, which focused on adapting Islam for building its legitimacy. When the community managed for the first time in its history to express itself freely it resorted to the dream that addressed the conscience of the broader segments of the people.
The Islamists are addressing an existing mainstream culture, and their primary effort depends on the adaptation of a cultural political project. Added to all this is the exploitation of the sectors found in the mosques that have been used in one form or another during the election campaigns.
On the other hand the ideas that oppose the Islamists find difficulty in access to the larger educated and urban elite sectors . The modernist ideas are usually depicted randomly as exactly opposite to Islam in order to defeat the political opponents. Modernization has benefited for decades from the protection of the existing powers. This made it look as if they are enforce by the state .
The modernist rational thought scarcely finds a media outlet. Hundreds of thousands of TV channels, radio stations and internet sites promote the traditional thought, making the critical thinking confined to the university and research centers.
Despite all this, change remains to be temporary and the . Tunisian political scene is not final. Moreover it is not logical to consider the election results as a victory to Islam. The number of votes obtained by the al-Nahdha are a million and a half of almost seven million eligible voters. This doesn't mean that the rest do not support Islam?
The alliance of al-Nahdha with secular parties refutes this argument. It reflects the belief of al-Nahdha of the existence of limits to the motivation of its religious feelings when it comes to confronting the problematic complexes of reality. The burning of its premises in Sidi Bouzid, after the elections, is a strong message in this respect.
The favorite position for the Islamist movements is not in power, but behind it or beside it, so that they are allowed to affect it without being in the front lines.