Ennahdha stakes its claim in new Tunisian government

Ennahdha stakes its claim in new Tunisian government
3 min read
12 January, 2015
The prime minister-designate is negotiating the possible inclusion of Ennahdha and other parties to give the government broad support for the tough reforms it has proposed.
Essid has a formidable task ahead of him [AFP]
Tunisia's Prime Minister-designate, Habib Essid, has started a series of consultations with political parties after being charged with forming the new government early last week.

Although Essid's party, Nidaa Tounes, has already made a number of political alliances before he was appointed, he will nonetheless have to work in a charged political climate.

Essid faces a complex equation that requires political agreements and many concessions, and must choose truly capable individuals to lead the various ministries, representing the parties with which Nidaa Tounes has allied itself. Further, the new government needs to create a broad base of political support to implement a series of hard reforms proposed over the next two years.

Ennahdha's delegation said it was committed to a government based on cooperation.

Nidaa Tounes apparently believes the inclusion of Ennahdha in the government will provide this support base, although some within the party disagree.

A leading Ennahdha member told al-Araby al-Jadeed his party wanted to be part of the government due to the party's great confidence in Essid, and in keeping with the idea of forming a national unity government that Ennahdha had called for before the elections.

Exhanging views

The Ennahdha member, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said a meeting between PM-designate Essid and Ennahdha's leader, Rashid al-Ghannouchi, was an opportunity for the party to present its vision of the future government - based on a number of principles that included Ennahdha's appropriate representation as the second largest party in parliament and its preference for a political government, not a government of independent technocrats.

However the party reaffirmed its demand that important ministries such as the Ministries of Justice and Interior be headed by independents.

Ennahdha also agreed to the possible appointment of Nidaa's secretary general, Taieb Baccouche, as the Foreign Minister or a Minister of State, after the party objected to his appointment as Prime Minister.

After meeting with Essid, Ennahdha's delegation said it was committed to a government based on cooperation among the widest possible cross-section of political forces.

Spokesman Ziad al-Athari said cabinet positions were not discussed with Essid, but that these would be discussed if Ennahdha joined the government.

The 35 ministries will have to be shared among at least four parties - in addition to those ministries that will be held by independents.

"The movement's participation in the government will be decided by the party's shura [consultative] council," said Noureddine Bhiri, leader of Ennahdha's parliamentary bloc.

Essid has asked the party to clarify its political, economic and social vision, its thoughts on ministerial structures and on possible ministers in the future government, Bhiri said.

Ennahdha's shura council is anticipated to issue its final decision regarding the party's participation and the government as a whole by the end of the week.

Negotiations continue

In his efforts to form a government, PM-designate Habib Essid has also met with other parties in parliament. Essid met Slim Riahi, president of the Free Patriotic Union, who rejected the allocation of government positions to parties according to their size in parliament and called for a tehnocrat government to be appointed.

Essid also met with the leader of the Popular Front, Hamma Hammami, despite the Front's opposition to Essid's appointment and Nidaa's overtures towards Ennahdha.

The process of forming a government will likely not be an easy one, as the 35 ministries will have to be shared among at least four parties - in addition to those ministries that will be held by independents.

While Essid needs to cater to each party's ambitions and its size in parliament, he is believed to be quite ambitious himself, and is unlikely to allow political wrangling to stand in the way of his government's success.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.