The 78-year-old’s candidacy reinforces speculation that he is looking to play a crucial role in Tunisia’s politics.
Rabat – Rached Ghannouchi, the influential leader of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party, will run in the country’s next parliamentary elections in October 2019. The move is widely interpreted as his attempt to attain a leadership position in the country.
“The decision to present Ghannouchi at the top of the party’s electoral list in Tunis 1 [district], is to have leaders of parties play a more important role at this crucial stage in the history of the democratic transition in Tunisia,” said Imed Khmiri, an Ennahda party official.
Ghannouchi was exiled in London for nearly two decades during the tenure of former president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Although he has never run for an official position before, Ghannouchi has been a significant force in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution.
The 78-year-old remains a dominant figure. Critics say he effectively controls the country in cooperation with the secular-minded President Beji Caid Essebsi, 92, nicknamed the “two sheikhs” in reference to their age.
Ghannouchi’s candidacy for a parliamentary seat intensifies expectations that he is hoping to play a bigger role in Tunisia’s politics, possibly as prime minister or speaker of parliament, if his party wins the election.
Parliamentary elections are expected to be held on October 6, 2019 with a presidential vote on November 17, 2019. This will be Tunisia’s third free election since the revolution in 2011.
The parliamentary race is expected to be fought closely by the Ennahda party, the secular Tahya Tounes party of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, the Nidaa Tounes party led by the president’s son Hafedh Caid Essebsi, and the Courant Democrate party.
Tunisia has been globally acknowledged as the only democratic success of the Arab Spring uprisings. The country drafted a new constitution, held free elections and formed a coalition government with secular and moderate Islamists, all in a region which previously struggled with socio-political turmoil.
However, political progress has not yet been reached by economic advances. Tunisia’s economy remains stagnant with the unemployment rate equating 15%, rising from 12% in 2010, due to the country’s weak growth and inadequate investment opportunities.