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Politics 2013-06-21

Tunisia political isolation law divides Ennahda

By Mona Yahia in Tunis for Magharebia -21/06/2013

Tunisian officials from the toppled regime may soon be allowed to return to politics.

Lawmakers are ready to hold a plenary session on the draft "Law for the Protection of the Revolution in Tunisia", Transitional Justice Minister Samir Dilou said on Thursday (June 20th).

But the bill may look much different from its original version. In a surprise move, Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi said his "party would seek to reduce the number" of those impacted by the "political isolation law".

The draft measure prevents anyone who served in the former government or the dissolved Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party from returning to political life.

The bill bans these allies of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from politics for seven years.

But if former regime members apologise to the Tunisian people, they will receive exemptions, Ghannouchi told Shems FM on June 11th. The judiciary will continue to handle corruption cases.

Politicians from the Congress for the Republic (CPR) pushed the bill to exclude those seen as contributing to the Ben Ali dictatorship. CPR lawmaker Samir Ben Amor even threatened a hunger strike if the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) did not soon debate the bill.

Ennahda, however, is divided over the measure.

"The law to protect the revolution must go through judicial mechanisms," the Islamist party's secretary-general said.

Speaking earlier this month to Mosaique FM, Hamadi Jebali pointed out that the exclusion of RCD politicians would be no different than what Ennahda and other opposition suffered under Ben Ali.

Yet those described as the "hawks" of Ennahda defend the law by saying that such a measure is commonplace in all countries undergoing a democratic transition.

"The conflict regarding this law is because a large number of former members of the dissolved RCD joined Ennahda," Ettakatol party member Habib Hamdi told Magharebia.

Moreover, during the Tunisia national dialogue last month, Ennahda welcomed "figures from the former regime, such as Kamel Morjane, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence during the time of Ben Ali", Hamdi noted.

Nidaa Tounes party leader Beji Caid Essebsi is among those opposed to the draft law. In his view, it targets him for exclusion from Tunisian politics.

"The law to protect the revolution, in the event it is ratified by the Constituent Assembly, is an affront to Tunisians and will be like a fissure in the history of Tunisia and in its image abroad," the former interim prime minister and newly declared presidential candidate said.

The Union for Tunisia, a coalition of opposition parties led by Nidaa Tounes, discussed the proposed law at a recent meeting.

"The issue of the protection of the revolution is decisive," opposition politician Abdul Razzaq al-Hammami said.

"We are against any law that would prevent serious electoral competition," he said.

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