Parliament Blocs Oppose Tunisia Government Reshuffle

Article Summary
The long-awaited government re-shuffle announced by the ruling Ennahda Party has been rejected by most parliamentary blocs, writes Mounir Ben Mahmoud.

After all of the expectation that had been built around the government reshuffle, the mountain has given birth to a mouse. Nearly every parliamentary bloc that was supposed to be part of the next government has rejected the proposals set forth by Ennahda.

After the refusal by Al-Joumhouri (Republican Party) and Al-Massar (Democratic and Social Path) to join the government, the Democratic Alliance and the Wafa Party opposed Ennahda’s proposals as well, particularly regarding its vision for the future management of the country. With all these rejections, does Hemadi Jebali have any other alternative than to expand his troika? 

It is certain that the Ennahda-controlled Shura Council, which has met several times in recent weeks, has not been of much help for the head of government. The party’s highest body has shown unfailing intransigence regarding Ennahda’s stranglehold on the ministries.

A political analysis conducted by the council, however, showed its unwavering support for the government, without any sign of reprimand towards its performance, leaving no room for self-criticism on the part of Jebali team. So while the council was full of praise for the Islamist party, the other partners wanted to change the equation.

Suddenly, and as if this has been widely confirmed and repeated, the Freedom and Dignity bloc expressed its wish to join the future government and to lend Ennahda a helping hand. There is already talk about appointing Moez Kammoun or Mohammed Tahar to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The bloc could therefore join the government at the next reshuffle.

One must note, however, that the Freedom and Dignity bloc has always sided with the Ennahda camp. The bloc’s members have consistently voted in favor of the government, which suggests that any attempt to isolate Islamists remains futile without skillful political maneuvres.

Rachid Ghannouchi’s pompous speeches on Ennahda’s intention to expand the troika have not been followed by any practical proposals reflecting this commitment.

Worse still, the Shura Council has taken up a rather adamant role on this matter, instead of acting as a conciliatory influence. The council gave no sign of leniency regarding its intentions to amend the government’s policies. It has gone so far as to fully defend and support these policies.

Furthermore, on Monday Jan. 21, 2013, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali told the media that he had received several written responses from the political parties that were supposed to join government. Jebali said that he would decide by the end of the week on the action to be taken in response to these messages.

Regarding the decision of each party in their messages, the prime minister requested the media to refer to each concerned party for answers.

Al-Joumhouri Party, the Wafa Party and the Democratic Alliance have, in fact, refused to integrate into the government. What will Jebali therefore announce?

The prime minister has not promised to announce the government reshuffle this weekend. He only said he would  comment on the responses of the contacted political parties and "tell the truth to the people," as he always likes to say, without ever walking the walk.

Jebali is clearly at an impasse, and the situation is far from being an easy one for him; not only have the potential new political partners turned their backs on him, but his former allies have also become greedier and have practically aligned themselves with the opposition stances. The proof is that Ettakatol wants the major ministries to be allocated to independent people. This is virtually the same request called for by Nida Tounes, Al-Joumhouri and Al Massar. Ettakatol party has even threatened, for the first time ever, to leave the government.

The Congress for the Republic (CPR), for its part, is not less demanding as it is asking that the governing team be reduced and for it to become more rigorous in terms of achieving the objectives of the revolution, including the reorganization of the judiciary, and fighting corruption.

Thus, the troika is not in its best shape. There are even doubts about the ruling majority. Ettakatol and the CPR are aware that Ennahda has no other way to obtain a majority than through them. This allows them to raise the stakes.

If we take into account the expected votes on the articles of the constitution, it is obviously not easy to obtain the 109 votes needed for an absolute majority. Ennahda will struggle to get 20 additional votes to its previous 89 votes, if all of the Ennahda members were present. The Freedom and Dignity bloc only has a dozen votes that are not regular.

In response to the accusations made against Ennahda, and according to which the movement is the cause of this impasse, the chairman of the Shura Islamist Party, Fathi Ayadi, accused Al-Joumhouri of being the real cause. "We asked Ahmed Najib Chebbi to occupy the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but he refused," he said. "So Ennahda is not attached to the major ministries," he concluded.

What a weird logic! It is as if Ennahda and Al-Joumhouri officials were the only Tunisians capable of occupying the major ministries. This is an alibi that does not even reach the level of argument. Ennahda is, however, no longer trying to justify itself. The Islamists' actions do not match their words, and they could not care less.

As far as the political landscape is concerned, vagueness is the name of the game, and harmony does not seem to be looming — quite the contrary.

Found in: troika, salafist, islamist rise in tunisia, islamist, ennahda

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