Revolt brewing within ranks of Tunisia's ruling party

Revolt brewing within ranks of Tunisia's ruling party
4 min read
10 March, 2015
Analysis: A growing splinter movement within Nidaa Tounes is a reflection of an internal struggle between factions to dominate the party and succeed Beji Caid Essebsi.
This is the most serious crisis Nidaa Tounes has yet faced [AFP]
A group of Nidaa Tounes members who announced their defection and boycott of the party's founders' committee convened for an emergency meeting on Monday that continued late into the night.

The disgruntled group includes a number of MPs from Nidaa's parliamentary bloc, members of the party's executive committee and representatives of regional party associations.

Participants called for an emergency meeting of Nidaa's national congress on 14 March, to discuss the party's situation and agree on the date and the preparation committee of Nidaa's national conference.

The rebel bloc
There was a unanimous decision to dissolve the founders' committee because it is incapable of carrying out its duties.
- MP Khamis Qasila

Sixty-four Nidaa MPs, 60 members of its executive committee and 24 regional coordinators, announced on Sunday they would boycott the founders' committee, and that they no longer recognised its decisions.

MP Khamis Qasila confirmed that there had been a unanimous decision to dissolve the founders' committee as "it has become incapable of carrying out its duties".

A leading member of the party, Amina Rekik, told reporters "the Nidaa party is on its way to the abyss because of the founders' committee".

Boujemaa Remili, Nidaa's executive director, described the move of the disgruntled party members as "very dangerous and coup-like", while Lazhar Akremi spoke of a campaign to pave the way for "Hafedh Caid Essebsi [Beji Caid Essebsi's son] to inherit the leadership".

Akremi rejected what he called the "return of the former regime and the return of bequeathing power".

"Certain people who did not get positions in power now rally around Hafedh Essebsi, who no longer has a place in the party after his incitement and conspiracies against the party."

Akremi also said "there are parties that working to dissolve the party [Nidaa] and there is an agenda to break Nidaa Tounes".

Hafedh Essebsi himself condemned Akremi's statements and denied any intention of trying to inherit the party leadership from his father. He confirmed his status within the party was legal.

Khamis Qasila said "Nidaa Tounes does not have a problem with Hafedh Essebsi, but with a small group". Qasila described this group as a troika composed of Lazhar Akremi (the minister in charge of relations with parliament), Mohsen Marzouk (the president's adviser) and Ridha Belhaj (the director of the presidential office).

The crisis between the founders' committee and party members was sparked after the election of the party's political office, scheduled for Sunday, was postponed. The election was seen as an attempt to get past the power struggle that has raged within Nidaa Tounes for months.

The founders' committee

After the resignation of Beji Caid Essebsi from the founders' committee, the committee was left with 11 members.

The founders' committee admitted to a disagreement caused by the postponement of political office elections, and called on a meeting convened between the executive committee, the parliamentary bloc, regional coordinators and the national congress to agree a new road map that leads to the upcoming party national conference.

The committee's statement also warned of "the dangerous role played by elements from outside the party that serve well known agendas".

However, the developments that occurred late on Monday night, with leading members of Nidaa Tounes coming out in public and trading accusations of a coup and an attempt to weaken the party and divide it, threaten the ruling party with a real split, especially after a complete breakdown in communications between the founders' committee and the party's rank and file.

After the resignation of Beji Caid Essebsi from the founders' committee, the committee was left with 11 members who founded the party.

However, a proposal to include another four members to the committee, including Hafedh Essebsi, was rejected by the committee. Disgruntled party members see this as an attempt by a handful of members to monopolise power and control the party.

The disagreements reflect the struggle to lead the party after Beji Caid Essebsi, and the struggle between various factions within the party, such as the constitutional, leftist and trade unionist elements, which are fighting to dominate the party ahead of the upcoming party conference in September.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.