Nidaa calls on Ennahda to denounce Brotherhood links amid presidential race

Karem Yehia in Tunisia , Monday 24 Nov 2014

Tunisians 'won't accept' a local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood via the Islamist Ennahda party, says MP

File Photo: Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement,delivers a speech during a meeting in Tunis, March 10, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

The presidential campaign of Beji Caid Essebsi has urged the Islamist Ennahda party to cancel ties with the international Muslim Brotherhood organisation if it wants to be a part of a future secular Tunisian government.

Tunisians are currently awaiting an official announcement by the Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) about a runoff between Essebsi and Moncef Marzouki, current interim president.

Unofficial numbers showed that Essebsi, head of the Nidaa Party that won a plurality of seats in recent legislative elections, and Marzouki will compete in runoff elections as they gained the most votes in the 27-candidate race that started on Sunday.

October's parliamentary vote saw Nidaa Tounes gain 85 seats (38.24 percent) in the 217-seat assembly, while the Islamist Ennahda movement came in second with 68 seats (31.33 percent).

In a phone conversation with Ahram Online, Al-Azhar Al-Ekremi – a Nidaa leading figure – denied being aware of any negotiations with Ennahda to join the new government.

In an another interview, Nidaa leader Mohamed bin Ramadan pointed out that his party decided to postpone any talks about the government's formation until the presidential elections are finalised.

Abdel Aziz Al-Keti, an MP for Nidaa, said the party's relationship with Ennahda will only be based upon "peaceful coexistence," in terms of the parliamentary weight of each side. But he emphasised that calling on Ennahda to denounce its relationship with the Brotherhood is an "old as well as renewed" request.

"We are waiting for Ghannouchi's response," Al-Keti said. The Tunisian parliamentarian argued that Tunisians "won't accept to have a branch of the Brotherhood," whether or not Ennahda is in power.

Ennahda spokesman Ziad Al-Azari was not available for a comment by phone. But, in an interview with Al-Ahram on October 2011, Ghannouchi denied a relationship between Ennahda and the international Muslim Brotherhood movement.

In a related context, an ISIE media official, Al-Asaad bin Ahmed, told Ahram Online that the body will announce the preliminary results for Tunisia's ongoing presidential elections in the next few hours.

Bin Ahmed said voting turnout reached 64 percent, adding that the single results for each electoral constituency will be unveiled after the conclusion of the vote-counting process.

The participation rate is lesser than that of the parliamentary elections last October, which exceeded 70 percent. "We expected higher voting rates this time, but results contradicted those expectations", claimed bin Ahmed.

"Perhaps the presidential candidates did not manage to persuade all Tunisians to vote." Regarding the low voting rates by Tunisian youths, bin Ahmed said they "seemingly did not find a suitable candidate", believing that such issue "requires examination research."

Several polls, which surveyed the voting patterns of Tunisians who casted their ballots, have generally agreed that Essebsi earned roughly 42 percent of the votes.

According to the same polls, Marzouki came second with about 22 percent of the votes, while Hamma Al-Hammai- a leftist candidate- came third with 10 percent. The credibility of these polls is increasing by virtue of time among the Tunisian society.

In a recent press conference, Hammami refused to comment on his position pertaining to the runoff battle, saying that his left-wing Popular Front will take its decision on the matter through "institutional means and democratic dialogue."

Morakeboon (Observers), a well-known Tunisian NGO for monitoring elections, announced that violations have taken place along the voting day, though not impacting the final outcome. Observer's coordinator, Rafik Al-Halawni, accentuated that no acts of violence were recorded.

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