Tunisia's Ennahdha re-elects party leader after ditching political Islam

Tunisia's Ennahdha re-elects party leader after ditching political Islam
2 min read
Video: Rached Ghannouchi has been re-elected leader of Tunisia's formerly Islamist movement, Ennahdha, as the party makes formal steps towards separating its religious and political activities.

Ennahda

The president of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahdha party was re-elected Monday, as the group met for a key congress to discuss separating its religious and political activities.

Rached Ghannouchi, who won the ballot comfortably with 800 votes, about 570 more than his closest rival, said his party was keeping pace with changes in Tunisian society.

Ennahdha is a "Tunisian movement that is evolving with... Tunisia and is part of its evolution", Ghannouchi said.

"From today, we are seriously moving towards becoming a national and civil political party with an Islamic core, which operates under the country's constitution and inspires Muslim and modern values," he said.

Ghannouchi, a 74-year-old intellectual who once advocated a strict application of Islamic law, founded the Islamic Tendency Movement in 1981 along with others - inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The movement became Ennahdha in 1989.

Read also: The New Arab's exclusive interview with Rached Ghannouchi

Banned under the dictatorship of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the party was legalised after the 2011 uprising that kicked off the Arab Spring and ousted the veteran leader.

Ghannouchi, who lived in exile for 20 years, returned to a triumphant welcome after the uprising and won post-revolution elections in October 2011.

But two years later he had to step aside amid a deep political crisis.

In 2014, the secularist Nidaa Tounes party of President Beji Caid Essebsi won parliamentary elections, beating Ennahdha into second place.

Ghannouchi founded the Islamic Tendency Movement in 1981 along with others inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

On the eve of the congress, French daily Le Monde published an interview with the party leader in which he said there was no longer any room for "political Islam" in post-Arab Spring Tunisia.

"Tunisia is now a democracy. The 2014 constitution has imposed limits on extreme secularism and extreme religion," he was quoted as saying.

Around 1,200 Ennahdha delegates are meeting for the three-day conference in Hammamet, south of Tunis, to discuss the party's future - and to adopt economic, political and social roadmaps.