Exiled Opposition Figure Returns to Tunisia

Vows Banned Party Will Take Part in Free Elections

Greeted by over 1,000 people at the airport, long-exiled opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia today for the first time in over 20 years, promising that his banned Islamist party will take part in “free and fair” elections.

Ghannouchi insisted that he has no intention of running for president, and that his al-Nahda Party will not field any candidates for the office, but will instead focus on the legislative elections.

So far the Tunisia government has not set a date for any new elections, but analysts predict that al-Nahda will be a force to be reckoned with when such elections take place. The current government, which still includes a large number of figures loyal to ousted President Ben Ali, insists it plans on such elections, and the UN has promised to help.

Ghannouchi had run afoul of President Ben Ali’s predecessor Habib Bourguiba, who had him sentenced to life in prison and later attempted to have him executed. Ben Ali pardoned him after taking power but quite quickly had his party banned and convicted him of “conspiracy” in absentia for his role in the political opposition. By then he had fled the nation.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.