In Cairo, Al-Ghannouchi warns against 'democracy of the majority'

Nadeen Shaker , Tuesday 4 Jun 2013

Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda party in Tunisia, told an Egyptian audience that power-sharing is important in diverse societies

Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist Ennahda Party, speaks during a news conference in Tunis October 28, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, founder of Tunisia's ruling Ennahda party, stressed the importance of harmony and power-sharing between different political groups during a visit to Cairo Tuesday. 

Islamist politician Al-Ghannouchi was a guest of honour at the Cairo headquarters of the state-run Al-Ahram institution, which produces a number of news products, including Ahram Online.  

The Tunisian politician spoke critically about regimes that follow a mere “democracy of the majority," where the ruling party enjoys the privileges of democracy alone. "A balance of power should be maintained. Any society is diverse, and so we have to accept this diversity or else face falling into conflict and chaos," he said. 

The mask of fear, he said, has already fallen in Arab Spring countries, and the real looming threat facing current governments is their own downfall.

A staunch proponent of moderate, reformist Islam, Al-Ghannouchi believes that Islam does not contradict modernity. Tunisia, he said, aspires to have a constitution that can absorb the modern values of Islam within its framework.

Following a 2011 uprising which unseated then-president Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia started the process of writing a new constitution. On 1 June, the Tunisian constituent assembly released a final draft constitution, which must now go to a national vote.

The Tunisian government has also had to deal with a recent upsurge of activism by hardline Salafist groups, one of which, Ansar Al-Sharia, rallied its supporters a month ago to defy a government ban on its annual congress, leading to clashes.

"We had to quell these demonstrations, and show them that the uprising has not ended the rule of law," he continued.

"These ultra-conservative groups deny the values of Islam, including justice, freedom, and harmony. They cause a Muslim to be frightened of freedom, when Muslims should benefit from freedom."

When asked to make a comparison between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunis, Al-Ghannouchi declined. "I do not like to make comparisons. I only advocate harmony." 

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