Senior Tunisian leader 'to quit Nidaa Tounes party'

Senior Tunisian leader 'to quit Nidaa Tounes party'
2 min read
10 May, 2016
Ridha Belhaj, Nidaa Tounes' political chief, will resign on Wednesday following the election of Sufian Toubal as the party's new head, sources told The New Arab.
Ridha Belhaj is expected to announce his resignation on Wednesday [AFP]
Ridha Belhaj, a top official in Tunisia's secular Nidaa Tounes party, will be resigning from his position as head of political affairs on Wednesday, sources have told The New Arab.

The policy chief, appointed last year as head of the Tunisian presidential cabinet, will be leaving the party over the election of its new leader.

Belhaj boycotted the closing session of a parliamentary bloc meeting last week during which the party announced the election of Sufian Toubal as its new head, after winning with 36 votes, sources said.

Belhaj, a former general-secretary in President Essebsi's transitional government after the 2011 revolution, had supported Toubal's rival candidate, Mohammad Saidan, who received only 12 votes form the party's leading members.

A number of attempts to discourage Belhaj from leaving the party have all so far failed, sources told The New Arab.

He is expected to announce his resignation on Wednesday.

An avalanche of resignations hit the party this year, after 22 lawmakers quit Nidaa Tounes in January, leaving the moderate Islamist Ennahdha the largest group in parliament.

An avalanche of resignations hit the party this year, after twenty-two lawmakers quit Nidaa Tounes in January, leaving the moderate Islamist Ennahda the largest group in parliament


Mohsen Marzouk launched a splinter group from Nidaa Tounes in March, several months after leaving the party.

Marzouk, a former Nidaa Tounes general-secretary, announced in front of thousands of supporters the creation of "the Tounes Movement Project", with policies based on those of Habib Bourguiba, who led the north African country to independence.

Nidaa Tounes had been riven by bad blood between Marzouk and the president's son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, in what insiders said was a battle for succession.

The crisis came to a head at the end of October after accusations that Essebsi supporters wielding sticks had blocked rival party members from a meeting of its executive committee.

Nidaa Tounes was created in 2012 and included political personalities from the left and centre right, as well as former officials of the regime of ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.