Ennahda make new power quest in Tunisia

Abdel Fattah Morou. (Reuters)
Updated 21 August 2019

Ennahda make new power quest in Tunisia

  • Abdelfattah Mourou is a lawyer who has distanced himself from the more socially conservative positions of his Ennahda party in the past

TUNIS: Tunisia’s moderate Islamists are hoping the genial Beethoven fan they have nominated to run in next month’s presidential elections will break the mold in the Arab world by turning success at the ballot box into uncontested rule.
Abdelfattah Mourou is a lawyer who has distanced himself from the more socially conservative positions of his Ennahda party in the past, has friendly relations with opponents and is known for a jokey manner.
His aim, he says, is to unite Tunisians via the election to be held on Sept 15 in which he will face 25 other candidates, including prominent secularists such as Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, his Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi and a TV tycoon.
“If I am elected I will be president of all Tunisians, not president for Ennahda supporters,” Mourou, 71, told reporters when he submitted his application earlier this month.
Ennahda won the first free parliamentary elections after the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings of 2011, but did not stand in the presidential poll after protests by secularists like those against Egypt’s freely elected Muslim Brotherhood, which was subsequently banned.
Mourou, kept under police surveillance during the 24-year rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has a good chance of surviving the first round of the election because the secularist vote is split, analysts say.
If he wins the second round he would become a standout, elected Sunni Islamist president in North Africa and the Middle East, where many longtime rulers style themselves as bulwarks against radical Islamism. Whether that would happen is less clear in a country with no reliable opinion polls.
Some Tunisians are wary, recalling a 2013 reception Mourou gave to visiting Islamist preacher Wagdy Ghoneim, who was excluded from the United Kingdom in 2009 for “seeking to foment, justify or glory terrorist violence.” Mourou later apologized, saying he did not realize the full extent of his views.
“Mourou is like a chameleon; his positions change every day like the rest of the Islamists,” said Mouna ben Salem, a student in Tunis, capital of the former French colony, where the key tourism sector is recovering from 2015 militant attacks.
Ennadha officials say the party has shown its true colors in its readiness to seek political consensus and is entitled to compete in polls for the president, who deals only with foreign and defense policy in Tunisia’s nascent democracy.
Mourou was not immediately available for comment, but he regularly displays moderate credentials, attending annual gatherings of Jews at the ancient Ghriba synagogue, for instance, where he speaks about religious coexistence.

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.


Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 


Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.