A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tunisia's Ruling Party Seems to Be Coming Apart

Tunisia has been the one success story in the Arab Spring aftermath, a consensus view reflected in this year's Nobel Peace Prize for the National Dialogue, but over the weekend, the ruling party, Nidaa Tounes, showed signs of coming apart. If, as suddenly seems quite possible, Nidaa Tounes splits in two, the Islamist Ennahda Party could again find itself holding the largest bloc in Parliament. (Nidaa Tounes holds 85 seats to Ennahda's 69, but 35 Nidaa Tounes deputies are threatening to set up a new party.)

Beji Caid Essebsi
Nidaa Tounes has always been something of a loose coalition of secularist figures, businessmen, stalwarts of the Bourguiba and Ben Ali eras, and the UGTT trade union confederation, united behind President Beji Caid Essebsi, who turns 89 at the end of this month.

Over the weekend the Party's Executive was scheduled to meet in the resort town of Hammamet, but a worsening factional split led to a physical brawl between conservative and liberal factions of the party as some leaders were denied entry and supporters of rival factions fought each other with clubs, causing damage to the five-star hotel where the meetings were to be held. See stories here and here.

The more conservative faction, with links to the former regime and the business elites, centers around the President's son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who has emerged only in the past year or so as a leader. The liberal faction, around Party General Secretary Mohsen Marzouk, claim the President is seeking to arrange for a dynastic succession for his son as head of the Party, evoking the nepotism of the Bourguiba and Ben Ali eras. The Essebsi faction accuses Marzouk of Presidential ambitions.

An attempt by the President to bring the factions together at the Carthage Presidential Palace failed when many deputies refused to attend The liberal faction claims about 35 deputies are ready to leave the party, which would deprive it of it status as the largest party bloc. Meanwhile they claimed Hafedh Essebsi is cultivating alliances with Ennahda, which is also part of the loose ruling coalition.

1 comment:

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Comment posted to another post but clearly intended for this one:

David Mack said...

If Essebsi manages to step down in favor of a coalition of An Nahda and a portion of his own party, he will look very well in the history books. Hanging on is likely to be a disaster of one kind or another. He deserves better, and so does Tunisia.