World Bulletin / News Desk
Tunisia's ruling Ennahda party is set to re-elect its leader at its first public congress this week, which its leader says the objective is ... to establish Ennahda as a moderate Islamist movement.
Banned under Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was toppled last year in mass protests that sparked the Arab Spring, Ennahda won the most seats in elections to a constituent assembly in October and formed a government in coalition with two secular parties.
The four-day congress began on Thursday. Rachid Ghannouchi, Ennahda's co-founder and current leader, is a respected scholar who teaches that Islam is compatible with democracy.
Analysts and party members told Reuters he was widely expected to keep his post given his long history in the movement and his ability to bridge the gap between its different wings.
Najib Mrad, an Ennahda member, told Reuters he expected the party would re-elect Ghannouchi and support moderation.
"The most important objective of this congress is ... to establish Ennahda as a moderate Islamist movement, open, focused on the concerns of Tunisians, on achieving their ambitions," Ghannouchi told journalists on the eve of the meeting.
Ghannouchi has still not formally announced his candidacy for the vote which is expected to take place on Saturday or Sunday.
Among the prominent challengers are Sadek Chorou and Habib Elouz. Both pushed for Ennahda to support the inclusion of sharia, or Islamic law, in the constitution currently being drawn up by the elected constituent assembly.
They were defeated in an internal vote on the issue and Ghannouchi announced that Ennahda would stick to its election pledge to keep the existing first clause of the constitution, which makes no mention of the role of sharia in lawmaking.
Speaking to Reuters, Elouz refused to either confirm or deny his candidacy, but said the role of religion in politics and society would be among the main topics of discussion.
"The movement does not include a single voice or a single leader, but multiple trends and voices," he said. "The importance of this phase requires the presence of a man who unites rather dividing."
More than 1,000 members are due to vote for the roles of president and secretary general of Ennahda and will also elect an executive office and a consultative committee with power to overrule the party leader, party officials told Reuters.
Though the congress is Ennahda's ninth, it is the first that will be open to the public as the party was previously banned.
Ennahda was founded as an underground organisation in the 1970s and went public in 1981, attracting a fierce crackdown by Tunisia's independence hero and then-president Habib Bourguiba, a staunch secularist who brooked no dissent. Ghannouchi was among the Ennahda members jailed during the 1980s.
After promising reforms, Bourguiba's successor Ben Ali again cracked down on opponents in the 1990s, arresting thousands of Ennahda supporters, while many went underground or fled abroad.
Ghannouchi himself went to London, where he was to spend more than 20 years, returning after the revolution last year. Ennahda won an official license two months after the revolt.
Tax inspectors in Greece are now turning their attention to holiday hotspots with tourism bosses complaining that increase taxes will hit tourism revenue
Iraq ratified the U.N. Convention against Torture in 2011, but rights groups such as Amnesty International say torture is still widespread,
Amensty International cites ‘strong evidence’ that Israel committed war crimes during last year’s ‘relentless, massive’ bombardment of Rafah
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is keen to keen to get a regional taskforce up and running to combat Boko Haram
Croatian lawmakers have voted to withdraw from a long running border row with Slovenia
Russian Energy minister has said that in order for the pipeline to continue, an intergovernmental agreement must be signed.
After receiving the fuel needed to operate, Gaza power plant set to resume operations following week-long stoppage
In case if no parliamentary majority will be ensured, Greece will go to elections
Facebook has faced numerous challenges in Europe, but Germany is determined to protect privacy of its citizens
Presence of anti-Muslim bigotry in US media is obvious
Human cost of east Ukraine conflict reaches 7,000 people, says OHCHR
Kites are source of entertainment for children in besieged enclave, but also source of income for unemployed
A Sudanese migrant had died after trying to enter the Channel Tunnel.-
A routine traffic stop has turned deadly in the US heartland with a dashcam footage reportedly so gruesome that the city of Cincinnati is preparing for riots as well as the officer’s indictment.
Offshore oil discovery by Exxon Mobil Corp which could be a major boost to Guyana has reignited a border dispute with Venezuela.
Depardieu is identified as national security threat