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What lies ahead for Tunisia?

As political tension in Tunisia continues to rise, the need for concessions becomes more important than ever.
Last modified: 7 Aug 2013 17:52

Tunisia's political crisis has reached a point where only a breakthrough can defuse tension or the country will fall into further violence and instability. Both the opposition and the government have resorted to the street to show their strength, but that was risky in a way.

The street is divided. Polarisation deepens mistrust, and if no concessions are offered in the coming days, Tunisia might face tougher days ahead.

The decision to suspend the Constituent Assembly is a major setback in an emerging democracy. It means that drafting the constitution, finalising the electoral law and setting a timetable for the elections will be put on the back burner.

But the parliament freeze can also put pressure on the seculars and the conservatives to find common ground and strike a deal.

The opposition is far from united. The Popular Front for example calls for the dissolution of transitional institutions including the government and the Constituent Assembly. Others like Call for Tunisia call for a government led by technocrats.

No doubt, the opposition in Tunisia is emboldened by the growing anti-Islamist sentiment that toppled, with the help of the army, president Mohamed Morsi. This could be its chance to batter the Ennahda party, and build more momentum to force the Islamists into major concessions.

Ennahda in Tunisia has also learnt a great deal from the failures of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They know that dismissing the demands of the opposition or shrugging off the frustration of the street could backfire.

Their only chance to stay in power, or lead the country in the future, is to make painful concessions now, before it's too late.

Ennahda must trade the government it leads for maintaining the Constituent Assembly where it holds leverage. In other words, Ennahda must be prepared to lose the government to maintain transitional institutions until elections are held.

Winning a decisive victory may no longer depend on how many of your supporters are out on the streets, but rather on whether you can make the right decision before you are overwhelmed by events.