The thirty-one Nidaa Tounes deputies, who had previously suspended their membership, resigned from the parliamentary party yesterday, granting a majority to the moderate Islamist party, Ennahda. However, while the mass defection will damage the President’s party, as well as the political fortunes of his son, Hafedh Essebsi, they pose little immediate threat to the coalition government.
Yesterday’s mass resignation comes after weeks of simmering resentment, public accusations of misconduct and threats from within the party. The rebel deputies, all supporters of party General Secretary, Mohsen Marzouk, had previously condemned the violence that marred the previous meeting of the party’s executive on November 1st, which they accused the rival faction of the President’s son, Hafedh Essebsi of inciting.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, one of the rebel deputies Sabrine Ghoubantini explained some of the motivations underscoring yesterday’s mass resignation. “Nidaa Tounes is undergoing an internal crisis, caused directly by attempts to establish a political dynasty through the President’s son, Hafedh Essebsi, as well as corruption within the party and the use of a militia, (referring to the group at Hammamet) to control the party.
“… There is no democracy within Nidaa Tounes. Myself and the other members who have resigned have been the targets of smear campaigns, launched at us from newspapers controlled by members of the party. I have been victimised, as have the others, for speaking out against attempts to establish a political dynasty within the party and against what is essentially a putsch within the constitutive project.
Nidaa Tounes has become a party separate from its mandate and the project for which it was elected.”
She also referred to the likely future of the rebel faction, should no reconciliation prove possible. Under such a scenario, the thirty one deputies would “… form a new bloc, which would continue with the genuine party’s project of strengthening democracy and establishing the second Republic. We will continue to fight for it.”
Jawher Ben Mbarek, professor of Constitutional Law , was clear in separating the impact of the resignations on both parliament and the coalition government,dismissing speculation that the loss of Nidaa Tounes’ majority could directly threaten the functions of the coalition government. “Essentially, these resignations are not going to cause the government to collapse. For that to happen, either the parliament needs to hold a vote of no confidence, or the government has to resign.”
Referring to the coalition of parties that currently form the government, he continued, “The government currently has the majority, (counting the Deputies that belong to all government parties) so there is no possibility of a vote of no confidence being passed, not least as the resigned Deputies have pledged to continue supporting Essid’s government.
However, today’s resignations risk initiating a domino effect where other parties within the ruling coalition, not least the The Free Patriotic Union( UPL) and Afek Tounes, whose deputies have all expressed their dissatisfaction with the government may consider voting against it”.
Further to a general slowing down in the functions of government, Professor Mbarek noted, “Ennahdha will now have a majority, which will change the structure of the parliamentary committees and the work they do.”
We need to keep a sharp eye on the political developments.”