New parliament speaker vows to unite Tunisians

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Nidaa Tunis and Ennahda have reportedly agreed on the parliament speaker, Mohammed Nasser, who told As-Safir that he would work to eradicate terrorism, solve the economic situation and unite Tunisians.

Nidaa Tunis and the Ennahda movement agreed yesterday [Dec. 4] on a parliamentary combination under which they will share  the new parliament’s speakership, with the election of Nidaa Tunis’ Mohammed Nasser, 83, as speaker, Abdelfattah Mourou, 66, as first deputy speaker and Free Patriotic Union MP Fawziya Ben Fedda as second deputy speaker.

Nidaa Tunis, which has a plurality in parliament (86 seats), held [Dec. 3] parliamentary consultations with the four founding political forces of the new parliamentary scene, mainly Ennahda, which placed second (with 69 seats), the Free Patriotic Union, which placed third (with 16 seats), the Popular Front (fourth with 15 seats) and Afek Tounes (fifth with eight seats).

At the parliament’s opening session on Tuesday [Dec. 2], both Nidaa Tunis and Ennahda pushed to postpone the issue of the parliament speakership until they had reached a [comprehensive] consensus. Although the first party did not lack the required majority [through a coalition] to elect a speaker with a majority of 109 votes as stipulated in the constitution, it looked for a large consensual legitimacy through a wide confidence exceeding a two-thirds majority, thus reaching a solid foundation for the future of parliamentary work.

Nidaa Tunis agreed with Ennahda on sharing the parliamentary speakership, while the third post was given to the Free Patriotic Union, in a clear reflection of the natural distribution of seats. The vote of 214 MPs present, out of 217, resulted in the election of the speaker and his deputies, with 176 votes for Nasser, 157 votes for Mourou and 150 votes for Fawzia Ben Fedda.

Results, which all exceeded the two-thirds majority of parliament votes, reflect an easy majority and consensual spirit between the three spectra representing the emerging liberal forces. The agreement — which left the leftist forces that are represented in the Popular Front coalition empty-handed — can be considered the beginning of a leftist alignment in parliament opposition, and the spark for a dispute with Nidaa Tunis, which has opted for rapprochement with Ennahda, its historic rival.

Fathi Chamkhi, spokesman for the Popular Front, said that the nonelection of the front’s candidate, Mbarka Awayniyah — the wife of [the late] MP Mohammed Brahmi, who was assassinated in 2013 — is “a loss to Tunisia,” and pointed out that “[this] woman does not represent the Popular Front, but rather all Tunisians, and her election would [have] represented a victory for the homeland’s martyrs.”

On the relationship between the Popular Front and Nidaa Tunis, Chamkhi confirmed, “The voting results cannot be considered a rupture of ties between the Popular Front and Nidaa Tunis. The consultations have not been resolved yet, and government negotiations are around the corner, and based on them, government and opposition parties will be identified.”

Although the parliament presidency combination did not explicitly reflect the strategic alliance between Nidaa Tunis and Ennahda in the five coming years, it shows a rapprochement between the two parties. It seems that the talks between Beji Caid Essebsi and Rachid Ghannouchi may culminate with a government alliance, if the parliamentary consensus between Nasser and Mourou succeeds.

For his part, former minister and Ennahda MP Samir Dello told As-Safir, “Ennahda endorses the candidature of Nasser for several considerations,” and said, “It does not mean that there is an alliance between the two parties, but it is an option to prepare for a harmonic foundation that serves the national interest and creates a tension-free parliamentary work atmosphere.” He denied [the presence] of any deal between the largest poles, but the results of the voting announce a parliamentary stability in the future.

In an interview with As-Safir, parliament Speaker Nasser said that he will be “a man of consensus” in the next stage, and he will work on converging views and breaking the ice between the various political parties.

Nasser said his first priority was to “bring the country out of the suffocating economic turbulences, gradually move forward with economic and financial recovery, and to strengthen security and rid the country out of terrorism by putting the ratification of the Anti-Terrorism Act on a fast track and boosting the potential of security and military institutions to besiege terrorism in its hotbeds and eradicate its roots.”

Nasser pledged that parliament would be “the voice of all Tunisians.” He vowed to achieve what was good for the country, stressing that communication with the citizens would not interrupted. He said his priorities in the coming period were “to form the bylaws committee that regulates parliament structures, and that the biggest challenge is the ratification of the state budget before Dec. 10, to prevent the country from adopting extraordinary measures that would have negative affects on the national economy.”

“The start of parliament [work] is a new era in the establishment of the Second Republic, and is no less important than the moment the First Republic was built with late leader Habib Bourguiba in 1957,” Nasser said. He said he would work on respecting the constitution and restoring the prestige of the legislative institution, according to a parliamentary accord based on the spirit of national responsibility.

Mohammed Nasser

Mohammed Nasser is the vice president of Nidaa Tunis. He was born in 1934 in the city of El Djem in the Mahdia governorate on the eastern coast of Tunisia. He obtained a Ph.D. in social law in 1976 from the University of Paris.

The late Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, who ruled Tunisia from 1956 to 1987, appointed Nasser director of the Office for Tunisians Living Abroad (1973-1974); Nasser then served twice as minister of Labor and Social Affairs (1974-1977) and (1979-1985).

Under the regime of deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Nasser was appointed president of the Permanent Representative of Tunisia to the United Nations and relevant international bodies in Geneva (1996-1991).

Following the revolution that ousted the Ben Ali regime, Nasser was appointed minister of social affairs in the government of Beji Caid Essebsi, which ran Tunisia from late February 2011 to December 2011.

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Found in: tunisia, politics, political solution, nidaa tunis, free patriotic movement, ennahda, economy, coalition
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