Yet in one crucial aspect Tunisia and Egypt took very different paths: While Morsi shut out dissidents and strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt, Tunisia’s Ennahda government runs the country in partnership with two smaller secular parties, one controlling the presidency under Moncef Marzouki, and the other in control of the assembly to draft the constitution — crucial to thrashing out how rigidly Islamic the country’s legal system will be. With Egypt racked by chaos and political instability, Tunisians are hoping that their coalition — a delicate arrangement fraught with infighting — might stave off a similar eruption at home. “In Tunisia, we anticipated what happened in Egypt,” Omar says. “We chose to give an opportunity for secular parties to share with us, and that excludes the intervention of the military or anything like that.”
But peace is not totally assured. Tunisia’s Islamist rulers have railed against the Egyptian military’s ouster of Morsi, with Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi calling on Muslim Brotherhood members to stay on Cairo’s streets until Morsi is freed. After Egyptian security forces opened fire on a Muslim Brotherhood gathering on July 8, killing more than 50 people, Ghannouchi issued an enraged statement, saying that “putschist forces committed a massacre against peaceful protesters supporting the legitimate President,” and called on Egyptians to “reject the coup and support the pro-democratic legitimacy front.”
Ghannouchi’s fury of course has had little effect on the situation in Egypt. And instead, some Tunisians believe a similar upheaval to Egypt might be possible, especially with rising dissatisfaction over the government’s seeming inability to improve a tepid economy or to rein in more militant Islamic groups, one of which assassinated a beloved secular opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, last February.