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Tunisia’s Ennahda Party to Discuss Holding Conference Amid Arrests

Tunisia’s beleaguered Ennahda movement will soon meet to discuss when to hold its general conference, a member of the Islamist-inspired party’s executive office said on Wednesday. Belkacem Hassan told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the conference was supposed to take place in the second half of October, but the situation changed following the arrest of several Ennahda leaders.

“The coming days will determine the nature of these developments and their consequences,” he added. He said the scheduling of the conference depended on the political situation in the country and that despite a decision to hold it in October, it may not happen during this period. The closure of Ennahda’s offices and the arrest of its leaders and members are an impediment, Hassan added.

“When the conference was scheduled, the chairman of the shura [advisory] council, Abdel Karim Al-Harouni, was not in prison, neither was the acting head of the movement, Mondher Al-Wanissi,” he said. “But after the movement’s leader were arrested, the shura council regarded these issues as an obstacle to Ennahdha’s progress, as well as to holding the conference on time.”

Hassan said a decision has yet to be made because there may be scope to address some of the problems, adding that a meeting to decide would take place soon. Tunisian security authorities arrested three local Ennahda leaders last week, including Bizerte regional general secretary Ali Al-Neffati and Ras Jebel local general secretary Haitham Al-Benzarti.

The party strongly denounced the arrests, which come after a 2021 power grab by President Kais Saied that critics have branded a “coup”. The climate for political opponents and the media has since become more difficult. Hassan said the executive office is functioning normally, awaiting what will happen in the coming days.

He said there is a grace period to consider possible developments, adding that Al-Wanissi may be released or Ennahda may retake ownership of its headquarters. Despite Al-Wanissi’s arrest, there are other vice presidents with responsibility for holding the party’s general conference before the end of the temporary vacancy period on 17 October.