A new controversy arises around the Tunisian party Ennahda and its possible internal division

Abdel Fattah Mourou leaves politics

AP/HASSENE DRIDI - Stock photo Vice President of the Islamist party Ennahda, Abdel Fattah Mourou, during a meeting with his party members in Tunis

Abdel Fattah Mourou, vice-president of Ennahda Movement (Tunisian Renaissance Party) and its candidate in last year's presidential elections, officially announced his decision to leave active politics. 

Mourou, a lawyer by profession and former vice-president of the Tunisian parliament, announced he retired from politics "definitively", saying he had "torn the ticket of politics". This situation deepens the gap within Ennahda, the nation's main Islamist grouping with serious divergences in its membership ahead of the upcoming 11th movement conference.  A scenario in which the party has been losing its parliamentary hegemony in recent years, especially as a result of the latest electoral process.  

During statements in the North African country's media, Mourou indicated that he had "torn the ticket of politics"" and that he no longer has any political or partisan position in the Ennahda movement.

Mourou’s decision came in conjunction with the publication of a secret document, which was published by Arabi21 and which is also being circulated amongst leaders of the Ennahda movement. The document is entitled “The Unity and Renewal Group” and calls for holding the movement’s eleventh conference, no later than the end of this year.

The text underlines the outstanding position of Rached Ghannouchi, a founding member of Ennahda and its president, and president of the Assembly of People's Representatives of Tunisia: “The importance of the role of the movement’s leader, Mr Rached Ghannouchi, in actively accompanying the new leadership situation after the eleventh conference, while making sure to succeed in his mission at the head of the People’s Assembly, and in his position of leadership of the country in the present and in the future.” The document also calls for a peaceful rotation of Ennahda’s leadership, which would mean not changing its rules to allow Ghannouchi to renew his presidency in the movement.

El presidente del partido islamista Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi

“This is an internal document, and we consider its content an internal matter. I signed it, and we will not talk to the media about details,” confirmed Noureddine Arbaoui, Ennahda movement’s political relations officer, and one of the signatories to the document, in a statement released by the Middle East Monitor.  

Arbaoui said: “Whoever leaked this matter does not want good for the group and wants to distort its image. This is a legitimate matter within the group, as we are looking for the movement’s unity.”

“Mr Ghannouchi is fully aware of the document, unlike the rumours that he is angry about it. The head of the movement respects it and it has been out for more than two months, since 16 March,” stressed Arbaoui.

Chairman of Ennahda movement’s Consultative Council, Abdelkarim Harouni, explained that: “The document is an internal matter that is not to be discussed in media outlets. This is why it has not been published, as it is a contribution to dialogue within Ennahda before the holding of the movement’s eleventh conference. It is in fact closer to a declaration of principles to provide the conditions for the conference’s success in a way that promotes the movement’s unity, within the framework of respecting its basic law and prioritising the conference and democratic rules, so as to ensure the holding of the conference in 2020 and the leadership rotation, while defining the position and role that befits the movement’s leader, Mr Rached Ghannouchi.”

Harouni also emphasised that: “The internal dialogue is open to different opinions, so that the conference be the culmination of consensus within the movement and the need for substantive, structural and leadership renewal. Everyone who wagers on dividing or confusing the movement by leaking this document is delusional.”

All this comes at a time of doubt within Ennahda and murky affairs linked to the Rached Ghannouchi leader, whose wealth is under suspicion. Tunisian activists have already launched a campaign to have the Ennahda leader's assets monitored. Many figures are being put forward about Ghannouchi's accumulated wealth, but media sources like Al Ain News estimate it to be between one and eight billion dollars, of doubtful origin. According to various media, this figure grew exponentially after his return from exile in 2011, when the last dictatorship of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ended.  

Abdel Fattah Mourou, izquierda, da la mano a Rached Ghannouchi, en el Parlamento de Túnez

This approach joins the commented links between Ghannouchi, a writer by profession, and the Muslim Brothers, a radical Islamist group with a Salafist tendency (a rigid and strict branch of Islam) that is considered a terrorist by several countries, such as the United States or Egypt. 

According to various media, such as Al Ain News, significant sums of money arrive through the channels of this type of formation, as in the case of Tunisia, according to various media outlets such as Al Ain News. Thus, the activist Mourad Nouri pointed out that large sums of money have arrived in Tunisia, mainly from Qatar and Turkey, to finance the activity of the Muslim Brothers. Most of these transactions are disguised as remittances sent to finance organizations dedicated to charity or the teaching of the Koran. Zubair al-Shahoudi, former secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia, accused Ghannouchi and his family of getting rich by diverting such funds. Large capital transfers from charities are a typical procedure for those engaged in financing Islamist groups. 

In this respect, Qatar has long been a suspect country. Already in 2017 countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a diplomatic and economic blockade on the Gulf country by accusing it of supporting cross-border terrorism, something which has been denied by the country led by Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. This hard financial blow forced the Qatari state to look for other partners on the international level such as Iran and Turkey to develop its commercial activity.