Parliamentary rivals ramp up pressure on Ghannouchi ahead of hearing

Five parties coordinate their actions ahead of June 3 session
Friday 29/05/2020
A view of Tunisian parliament. (AFP)
A view of Tunisian parliament. (AFP)

Tunis

Parliamentary rivals are ratcheting up pressure against Tunisian Parliament Speaker and leader of the Islamist Ennahda Movement Rached Ghannouchi as he prepares to appear before the legislative body on June 3.

Abir Moussi, head of the anti-Islamist Free Destourian Party (PDL) bloc, announced Friday that a coordination meeting was held by the PDL and representatives of four major political parties – the National Reform, Tahya Tounes, Qalb Tounes and Al Mostakbal — to discuss the scheduled hearing on Ghannouchi’s alleged partisan attempts to influence Tunisia’s foreign policy agenda.

The parliamentary front could be expanded to include some two-thirds of MPs and field a wide range of initiatives, Moussi said during a news conference.

Proposals, according to Moussi, could include important amendments to the electoral law and reforms required to establish a constitutional court and amend parliament’s procedural rules.

They would also include a legislative initiative aimed at amending the constitution and basic laws, as well as doing away with parliament’s administrative office and removing its chief of staff Habib Kheder, who is also a member of Ennahda.

Though it is leading the drive to have Ghannouchi removed as parliamentary speaker, Moussi’s party would not compete for that position if it opened up, she said.

She also said that MPs are drafting several economic laws on governance, public sector reforms, employment and the state subsidy system.

Moussi said that the blocs will put forward bills to their respective national councils during the the weekend and that a parliamentary majority is being forged to ensure passage of the laws.

An online petition circulating since May 25 calling for MPs to “withdraw confidence” from Ghannouchi has so far collected about 80,000 signatures and is expected to reach 100,000 signatures by May 31.

Moussi said the petition will be presented to parliament June 3 and that a protest will be organised in front of the building that will host the plenary session.

Ghannouchi has so far been silent about the political pressure he is facing at home before his scheduled appearance before parliament.

There are varying interpretations of Ghannouchi’s silence. Some believe he is staying quiet in the hope that the political controversy blows over. Others, however, believe he may have a surprise in store that could allow him to emerge from the controversy a winner.

Ghannouchi has faced political backlash after he congratulated Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), on recapturing al-Watiya airbase during a phone call on May 19.

Tunisian parliamentary blocs as of January 2020.(AFP)
Tunisian parliamentary blocs as of January 2020.

Ghannouchi’s critics accuse him of meddling in the country’s foreign policy to serve his party’s agenda, bypassing state institutions, notably the presidency, and dragging the country into the Libyan conflict in support of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies.

His supporters say there is a politically-motivated cabal against Ghannouchi and that he is merely engaging in “parliamentary diplomacy.”

Amid the controversy, a barely-veiled political rift has developed between the Islamist leader and President Kais Saied, with Tunisian political parties and figures largely rallying behind the president.