Tunisia Islamists warn of poll fraud risk

2011-10-19 18:00

Paris - Tunisia's first post-revolution polls risk being rigged, the Islamist party leading opinion polls warned on Wednesday, vowing a fresh uprising if vote was marred by fraud.

"There is a risk of the election results being manipulated," Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi told a press conference in Tunis, warning: "If there is manipulation, we will rejoin the forces and the guardians of the revolution which ousted Ben Ali and the first [interim] government. We are ready to oust up to ten governments if needed."

Ennahda, which pollsters expect to take the biggest bloc of votes in elections on Sunday for an assembly that will write a new constitution, also warned other political groups not to gang up against them.

"It is their aim to destroy us," he said. "If the small movements enter into a coalition against Ennahda if we win the elections I can say that it will be a blow for democracy."

He insisted that Ennahda, banned under the regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali who was ousted in a popular revolt in January, "has a majority of votes".

On a more conciliatory note, Ghannouchi added: "We are ready to lead a government of national unity if the Tunisian people place their trust in us."

The political role of Islamist parties in post-revolution Tunisia is a hot topic in a country where religion-based political parties are banned under the current constitution.

There have been sporadic violent, anti-secular outbursts by Salafist conservatives during the electoral campaign, including a petrol bomb attack last Friday on the home of a television director's house after the broadcast of a film deemed offensive to Muslims.


Ennahda (Renaissance in Arabic) has distanced itself from such acts, but its stated commitment to democratic values is questioned in some quarters.

The constituent assembly to be elected on Sunday will also appoint an interim president who will choose a prime minister and a government to take the reins for the duration of the constitution drafting process, expected to take a year.

Ghannouchi insisted his party's main aim was the formation of an interim government "which unites all the parties with the participation of Tunisia's state organs".

He declined to elaborate on Ennahda's possible coalition options, saying only: "We are in contact with several parties for a government of national unity."

Several groupings, including the Progressive Democratic Party of Ahmed Nejib Chebbi and the Modernist Democratic Pole, a leftist alliance set up to counter the Islamists, have ruled out any possibility of joining forces with Ennahda.

"Chebbi is free to participate or to refuse to enter in a government that doesn't suit him. We are available to negotiate with all parties."

The main actors on the left of the political spectrum have not concluded any coalition accord despite agreeing on most of their political programmes on the economy, protection of freedoms and gender equality.