The tragedy at the Bardo National Museum that left over 20 dead on the eve of Tunisia’s celebration of its Independence Day came at a time when the frustration of Tunisians with the poor performance of the political elite in power and the opposition has become unbearable. The crisis within Nidaa Tounes that intensified after the election of Baji Caid Essebsi (BCE) as president worsened further when a group of around 60 MPs and as many of the party’s executive committee, amongst others, rebelled against the party’s leadership as the power struggle between leftist and former RCD party loyalists came to a head. The immediate effect of the Bardo bloodshed was the election of the party’s political bureau on Sunday 19 March. The party’s crisis is, however, not over as there are rumours that Hafid Essebsi, son of president BCE, would be leaving Nidaa Tounes to form his own party. The Bardo attack would understandably deal a significant blow to the country’s fragile tourism-based economy. But beyond the political and economic immediate and mid-term consequences of the Bardo attack, keen observers of the region’s affairs a fear far reaching impact on the Tunisian democratisation model. The attack would bolster the counter-terrorism approach as the exclusive strategy to counter religious extremism. This security approach would only play into the hands of violent groups who would profit from the restrictions of liberties. Tunisian expert Larbi Saddik fears that the aftermath of the attack might undermine moderate Islamist political parties such as Ennahdha that “seek a two-fold synthesis: 1) between a moderate brand of Islam that tolerates ballots, gender equality, rule of law, pluralism, accountable government, and coexistence with the West; and 2) a form of democracy that is inclusive of all faiths and freedom of worship.” That fear is shared by George Geofee of Cambridge University, who sees in Ennahdha an essential player in the transition in Tunisia given the structural fragility of Nidaa Tounes dominating the national assembly now.
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