Cabinet Reshuffle Shakes Tunisia's Political Landscape

Article Summary
A much anticipated cabinet reshuffle has shaken the Tunisian political landscape, while the opposition is calling for a comprehensive change in government structure. 

The much anticipated cabinet reshuffle has shaken the Tunisian political landscape, sparking controversy amongst the ruling elite — which holds the final decision on any ministerial amendment — and the opposition is calling for a comprehensive change in governmental structure during the time that remains of the transitional period.

Although there has been a consensus on a cabinet reshuffle among the political class in Tunisia, the degree of such an amendment is still under deliberation, even within the ruling Troika. The opposition parties, on the other hand, demanded the formation of a technocrat government with a limited number of people in order to manage the affairs of the country until general elections are held. Meanwhile, the Islamic Ennahda movement and both its ruling partners continue to cling to power in the government.

Some reports on the upcoming governmental structure have leaked out, but Ennahda leaders denied them. Sami Tariki, a member of the Shura Council said that “all allegations and reports about a new governmental structure are unfounded. These are mere leaks designed to disrupt the ongoing consultations between the ruling coalition and the constituent assembly.”

Tariki stressed to Al-Hayat that his movement “is open to all political forces that were not involved with the former regime.” He said that deliberations are ongoing with the Republican Party, the Social Path Movement, the Loyalty to the Revolution Movement, and the People’s Front, which are all parties outside the government coalition.

However, Tariki stressed Ennahda’s refusal to form a technocrat government, saying that the situation calls for expanding the political base for the ruling coalition “in order to ensure security and social and political stability in the coming period.”

Tariki denied allegations by Lutfi al-Zaytoun, the prime minister’s political adviser, saying that the governmental amendment will be announced on Jan. 14, the second anniversary of the escape of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

On the other hand, the opposition does not consider efforts of the government and Ennahda to expand the coalition government a solution to the crisis. The spokesman of the Republican Party (formerly known as the Democratic Progressive Party) Issam Chebbi stressed the “need to stop focusing on partisan quotas within the government.” He also emphasized that his party “is ready to support any independent technocrat government that operates under a clear and specific plan.”

Chebbi told Al-Hayat that his party will not take part in any government that is based on partisan quotas. He also denied what was published by a local newspaper about a meeting between Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi and the historic leader of his party, Ahmed Najib Chebbi.

Moreover, a heated debate raged within the government coalition over the potential candidates for ministerial positions in the anticipated government. Al-Hayat learned from sources affiliated with the Congress for the Republic (CPR), a member of the ruling Troika, that the CPR strictly adheres to its demands of a full scale amendment, which would include all ministries, particularly the ministries of foreign affairs and justice.

Ennahda, however, was obstinate in the other direction, confirming that “all ministries are subject to change but the party will not abandon its positions in any ministry.”

Analysts believe that Foreign Minister Rafiq Abdul Salam, who has been said to exploit public money, according to a blog, stands behind one of the obstacles to the anticipated amendment. The CPR seeks to control the foreign ministry by allocating the position of foreign minister to one of its candidates or to an independent close to the party. Nevertheless, Ghannouchi clings to Salam as foreign minister. This is especially true given the fact that Abdul Salam is Ghannouchi’s son-in-law and that the Ennahda leader seeks to take hold of the country’s foreign policy, especially with regard to relations with Qatar and Turkey.

On another note, yesterday [Jan. 2], Hassan Bin Brik, a leader of Ansar al-Sharia, was released, along with two other detainees who were arrested on the basis of an attempted attack on the US embassy in September 2012. The court of first instance decided to release the detainees after deferring the verdict to Jan. 16. It should be noted that Bin Briki is in charge of the information office of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia.

Found in: tunisian politics, troika government

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