Nidaa Tounes faces risk of yet another split

It is unclear whether the party’s situation will change the political path in Tunisia.
Sunday 15/07/2018
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (Front) and Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the head of Nidaa Tounes arrive for a meeting at Carthage Palace in Tunis, last May. (Reuters)
Critical juncture. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (Front) and Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the head of Nidaa Tounes arrive for a meeting at Carthage Palace in Tunis, last May. (Reuters)

TUNIS - A frenzy of meetings gripped the Nidaa Tounes political party in Tunisia, including intercessions by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi to help the party to avoid a fifth crisis since it was founded in 2012.

Nidaa Tounes has seen a series of resignations that resulted in four parties — the Tunis Project Movement, led by Mohsen Marzouk; the Tunisia First Movement, led by Ridha Belhaj; Beni Watani Party, led by Said Aidi; and the Future Party, led by Tahar Ben Hassine — splinter off since the elections of 2014 put it in power.

To avoid a fifth split, Caid Essebsi on July 12 met with Nidaa Tounes members in the Tunisian parliament to ease tensions caused by statements and accusations between feuding camps in the party.

Several members of Nidaa Tounes’s political bureau issued a statement emphasising the importance of preserving “the stability of the government,” a position that seemed to echo that of its Islamist rival Ennahda Movement and contradict that of Nidaa Tounes, which led by the president’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who has been opposed to keeping Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and his government.

Other party members — 11 members of the 31-person Nidaa Tounes political bureau — issued a statement July 11 saying the “political bureau is the only executive instance that is responsible for managing party affairs collectively until the date of the party’s congress,” which they set for September.

Those party members were described as Chahed supporters. Thei rivals claimed they were Ennahda agents inside Nidaa Tounes.

Hafedh Caid Essebsi pointed out that the meeting “was attended by a minority from the political bureau” and accused them of pursuing “an agenda that seeks to split the party and weaken its weight on the political scene.”

It is unclear whether the party’s situation will alter the political path in Tunisia set in August 2013 with an agreement between Beji Caid Essebsi and Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi.

But changes could be in the offing. 

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