Former ally delivers scathing attack on Islamist party

The former minister of administrative reform in the resigned government said that Ennahda “has spoiled what is found in the Tunisian political scene.”
Tuesday 13/10/2020
A 2019 file picture of Tunisian lawyer and former minister Mohamed Abbou speaking during an interview. (AFP)
A 2019 file picture of Tunisian lawyer and former minister Mohamed Abbou speaking during an interview. (AFP)

TUNIS – Former Tunisian Minister of State in charge of Civil Service, Good Governance and Combating Corruption Mohamed Abbou  launched a new attack on the Ennahda Movement, levelling allegations of corruption against the Islamist party related to their political activities and accusing it of having plotted to pull the rug from under the feet of former Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh.

It is not the first time Abbou has made such accusations, which are expected to politically embarrass Ennahda, especially as the latter has not taken the matter to the courts in an effort to defend itself, drawing speculation that it is trying to avoid a clash with the former minister, who had access to sensitive files during his tenure. The Islamist party seems reluctant to begin a war of files.

The former minister of administrative reform in the resigned government said that Ennahda “has spoiled what is found in the Tunisian political scene,” alleging that the party is “mired in abuses of the law since 2011.”

Speaking during an interview on the private TV channel Attassia, Abbou added that “Ennahda Movement was involved in all sorts of intrigues and plots to bring down the Fakhfakh government since the first day of its mandate in the month of February.” He also reiterated his accusation that Ennahda was financing a satellite TV channel outside the bounds of the law as part of a money laundering operation.

“The Brotherhood corruption is evident in more than one vital sector in the country, as the movement seeks to put its hand on the productive ministries in order to collect money and distribute the spoils to its cronies,” he continued.

Abbou was in charge of the ministry of administrative reform on two separate occasions. He was a member of the post-revolution and Islamist government of former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali in 2012 and of the government of Fakhfakh in 2020.

The new statements by Abbou, who was for years considered an ally of Ennahda, sparked renewed controversy. Because of his appointment as minister, especially during the rule of the Troika government in 2012, or in the coalition government of Fakhfakh, he is thought to have been familiar with many of the classified details of the files related to Ennahda and its activities.

Observers believe that Abbou’s intimate knowledge of Ennahda’s government performance makes him most qualified to assess it and gives credence to his recent statements.

Political analyst Bassel Torjman said “Mohamed Abbou’s positions are not new. The man was a former political official in the government and spoke of what he knows for a fact, and he is a person who cannot be accused of corruption.”

Torjman added: “Ennahda today is in a state of confusion and continues to act with the same methods of political blackmailing and going for broke, similar to what we read on electronic pages that fabricate lies and create political escalations.”

“Ennahda today has a moral responsibility and faces two dilemmas; The first has an Islamist background, since we have to ask how political Islam can have a relationship with corruption, and the second is political, because real accusations have been levelled at the party,” said Torjman, adding that Ennahda “finds itself in a moral and political dilemma, the moral dilemma is more embarrassing because the party has always claimed moral purity.”

Commenting on Abbou’s latest accusations, Torjman said, “to be attacked by your opponents is quite normal, but the accusations today came from a person who was an ally of Ennahda while in power, which makes them credible to public opinion.”

Recent statements by Ennahda leader and former minister Imad Hammami seem to confirm Abbou’s claims. Hammami said that the accusations levelled at Fakhfakh that brought down his government were exaggerated and that certain circles within Ennahda had planned to topple the government from the beginning.

He stressed that “toppling the Fakhfakh government was (planned) from the beginning, and I do not exclude Ennahda Movement—especially those parties who decide the policies within it—from being involved in this matter from the beginning in addition to Qalb Tounes Party.”

He pointed out that the judiciary has still not proven the conflict of interest allegation against Fakhfakh.

Abid Briki, secretary-general of the Tounes Ilal-Amam Movement and former member of government, considered that “Mohamed Abbou’s statements did not bring anything new, and the issue of Ennahda’s corruption is one of the constants, because Ennahda wants to cling to power by any means. The fundamental contradictions underlying its alliances prove that governing is not an end in itself for Ennahda but rather one of the mechanisms for protecting itself.”

Briki added that “to date, no one knows the source of the huge amounts of money that the movement spends on various electoral occasions and on its events.”

“It is very certain that Abbou knows the sources of (these) funds and of other (embarrassing) files; it must be the case, because they had accepted Fakhfakh as prime minister, but when the latter made his intention to hold the parties accountable (for their financing), and indeed initiatives were taken to uncover their transgressions, Ennahda was quick to call for withdrawing confidence from him,” Briki said.