Squabbling Political Class Pushes Tunisia Toward Crisis

Article Summary
After a bitter dispute over the extradition of Gadhafi’s last prime minister, Tunisian political leaders continue to trade blows, writes Noureddine Hlaoui. President Marzouki sacked the head of Tunisia’s central bank, while Ennahda is threatening to replace Marzouki. Ultimately, he says, Tunisia is likely headed for an unprecedented crisis.

Former Libya PM Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi’s extradition from Tunisia, as well as the commotion raised by the Tunisian political class after the Tunisian government handed over Mahmoudi to a power in Tripoli that does not yet exist, continues to be controversial. The unusually stormy session at the National Constituent Assembly was boycotted by all opposition members. What’s more, President Monsef Marzouki is now dragging us into another crisis with his publishing of the decree which led to the dismissal of the Republican governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia. This particular event has the potential to be a real bombshell because it may impact the country’s economic credibility and reputation with international financial bodies. Some initially believed that this was a gift on the part of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to President Marzouki, but this is of no consequence.

Indeed, given the content of the presidential decree, which appears to have been the product of a consensual consultation with the head of the provisional government, some see in it a resumption of an accord, albeit a cyclical one, between the two presidents. However, in answering a question by the Shems FM radio station a few moments later, the director of the presidential office, Adnan M’nasser, said that the decision to remove Mustapha Kamel Nabli from his post at the Tunisian Central Bank was made a while ago, and that there had been no recent consultations between the two parties. That suggests that the decree sacking Nabli was a direct response on the part of Marzouki, who saw his prerogatives trampled upon throughout the extradition affair.

Hours after the first decree was made public, the presidential office’s official website unveiled a second bombshell. It published a document declaring that Marzouki would refuse “to sign two bills related to the amendment of the agreement regarding Tunisia’s role in the IMF [International Monetary Fund]. This amendment would entail a rise in Tunisian funding to the IMF ... according to the requirements of Article 11 of the law organization the provisional government.”

This smelled of another dirty trick. The National Constituent Assembly had already passed the two bills in question on June 13. It was expected that Tunisia would approve the IMF’s agreement to increase its share of funding to the organization before the end of June 2012 — before the end of the week!

These two decisions were published hastily, just hours after the notorious Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi was handed over to authorities in Tripoli. This leads observers to believe that the two leaders are playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse, where each party wants to have the last word. This also explains the unilateral decision-making, the responses, the reprisals and the counter-reprisals. In short, a vicious circle with unpredictable consequences has been set off.

But where are the Tunisian people in all of this? Have they become the fall guy in a fight between two men who have put their own interests before those of the people?

It must be said that the situation does not look good. On one side, there are the opposition blocs in the Constituent Assembly who have mobilized themselves and filed a motion censuring Jebali’s government for extraditing Libya’s former prime minister to Tripoli. The motion has already received 78 signatures. On the other, rumors are circulating about a potential counter-motion by the Ennahda bloc calling for the removal of the republic’s temporary president for having overstepped his powers as stipulated in the legal framework organizing the provisional government of Tunisia. It should be noted that the two motions are to be put forth on Friday, June 29, 2012 at a National Constituent Assembly plenary session.

If this turns out to be true, the country would be left in an astonishing state, especially if both motions are adopted. The Constituent Assembly would have to elect a new provisional president of the republic, who, in turn, would appoint a new head of the provisional government. In other words, we would find ourselves in the same situation we were in on October 23, 2011, after the elections — that is, back to square one. We are certainly not there yet, but the scenario is possible.

In any event, the country’s situation proves that Tunisia is governed by people who are still amateurs when it comes to politics and the management of state affairs. Who would have imagined that one day Tunisia would be led by a president elected with 17,000 votes? Some respond to these statements by claiming that Marzouki was chosen by the people. Others might respond that those “elected by the people” only got to where they were through a series of alliances, narrow calculations and partisan interests.

Indeed, its seems as if an exceptional number of those in government were hurriedly chosen in the interest of cutting up the national pie. The majority of those now in positions of responsibility were named according to how active they were in the past and the number of years they spent in prison. Only rarely were they nominated due to their competence.

Ultimately, and given the level of childishness at the top, it is likely that Tunisia is headed for an unprecedented crisis, a crisis that might create inextricable divisions given the breakneck speed of the latest developments. Even according to optimistic analysts, Tunisians should be ready for any eventuality, including the worst.

Found in: baghdadi al-mahmoudi, monsef marzouki, jebali, ennahda

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