- Title: Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party faces dilemma with rise of populism
- Date: 2nd October 2019
- Summary: WOMEN CAMPAIGNERS SPEAKING TO VOTERS
- Embargoed: 16th October 2019 13:50
- Keywords: Tunisia Election Ennahda Parliament
- Location: BIZERTE AND TUNIS, TUNISIA
- City: BIZERTE AND TUNIS, TUNISIA
- Country: Tunisia
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA002AZEO01Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Widespread popularity once enjoyed by Tunisia's moderate Islamist party Ennahda is fading, causing a dilemma for the party ahead of Sunday's (October 6) parliamentary elections.
Ennahda's national vote share has steadily fallen since Tunisia's first free election in 2011, raising tough questions over its strategy and ideology as it seeks to rally from a presidential vote last month in which it came third.
Where once it held the support of Tunisia's socially conservative, less developed interior, it now faces a challenge from populist outsiders who berate the main parties over poverty.
Having disappointed Islamists by rebranding itself a "Muslim democrat" party, and poor Tunisians by joining governments that failed to improve their lot, it is trying to woo back its base.
It has embraced Kais Said, a socially conservative law professor who as an independent candidate got most votes in the first round of the presidential election, formally backing him in the Oct. 13 second-round runoff.
In doing so, it is also positioning itself in opposition to Said's opponent, the television mogul Nabil Karoui, who faces trial for tax evasion and money laundering, which he denies.
Karoui has for years used his television station and his anti-poverty charity to develop an image as the champion of Tunisia's poor, though his rivals paint him corrupt for his personal wealth and ties to the old ruling elite.
The parliamentary election has long been Ennahda's focus because the party that gets most seats stands the best chance of choosing a prime minister and forming a government, while the president's powers are relatively limited.
Banned before the 2011 uprising, Ennahda emerged afterwards as the strongest party, seen by opponents as reactionary and dangerous, and by supporters as the voice of the revolution.
By 2014 Ennahda's share in the parliamentary election was down to 28%, with 947,000 votes, and last month its presidential candidate took only 12%, with 434,000 votes.
For all its troubles, Ennahda remains Tunisia's best-organised political movement, competing against an array of ever-changing, fly-by-night rivals.
(Production: Seham Eloraby)
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