Transcript: interview with Rached Ghannouchi
Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia’s Islamist movement, Nahda, spoke to the Financial Times in London. Here are excerpts from the interview.
FT: What do you think about the Future of Arab Revolutions?
RG: I’m optimistic. These people who made these revolutions I have confidence that they have the ability to translate these revolutions into a system that achieves the aims of these revolutions. These came after a struggle for long decades where all methods were tried for reforming these regimes from within. And all had failed, in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere and reform from without has also been tried, through the use of violence, and that has also failed.
The people have discovered that these regimes are not able to be reformed. And that attempts to reform them through violence have only strengthened these regimes. And they discovered the method of peaceful resistance, peaceful revolutions. Hence the fate of these revolutions is not linked to any particular party or ideology or leader. It depends on the millions who have achieved them, these revolutions.
Today, the revolution continues; and the youth of the revolutions are still striving to put pressure on the old elites, which are trying to return on the scene to rule again. And are ruthlessly defending their interests. Hence we see new sit-ins and protests in Tunisia and Egypt to put an end to the past, break with the past, and start a new page.
To break with the past and build a political system that achieves the aim of the revolution in building a fair, democratic system. The youth are very vigilant and conscious of what they need to do, and they’re not ready to leave their fate in the hands of the elites. And there is still turmoil in the country, in both Tunisia and Egypt.
FT: What balance sheet would you draw up on what has been achieved so far in the transformation of power?
RG: The main achievements are – and the first one is toppling the dictator and putting a number of his accomplices on trial. Apart from that the main achievements are psychological and people have liberated themselves from fear. People are exercising their sovereignty on the ground; so the ruler or the minister or the director of a company who is appointed, people research their background and they evaluate them. If they discover that they come from the old archives then they use the famous “Degage” and they are dismissed. However, the problem is the new appointees are from the same archives too.
So now fear has moved from the people to the opposite camp of the state, so the state is trying to please and appease the people. . . The police were a source of great terror. Now Ben Ali has fled and his nearest allies are living in fear, police stations have been burnt. They are coming back onto the scene but in small, reserved steps.
The Interior Ministry has even changed the colour of police uniforms to end the image of the hated policeman; they’ve changed the colours of police cars. So people will forget the image of the terrorising and corrupt policeman.
But we have said what is under the uniform must change, too. There’s a great internal conflict within the Interior Ministry between different trends: those who say that the police must be neutral in the political sphere, must not side with any political party. And just apply the law.
Another trend believes that the police itself is in danger because they will bear the responsibility for all the crimes of the old regime. So they must continue with the same mentality, the same ideology of combating fanaticism and terrorism and Islamists.
Because that was the ideology of the state, combating Islam is combating Nahda. So in brief there is a movement pushing forward and another trying to pull back.
FT: Why did you agree to the postponement of the elections for a constituent assembly (from July to October). Nahda had been against that?
RG: We had no other choice; we were forced to accept.
FT: Forced by whom?
RG: Because the electoral commission, they were the ones who, without consulting anyone, decided to postpone the elections.