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Tunisia: New resignations in Nidaa Tounes

November 12, 2018 at 4:38 am

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi speaks at a press conference in Tunis, Tunisia on 27 December 2017 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Nothing was new in the press conference held by President Beji Caid Essebsi last Thursday afternoon regarding style or content except his pointing out to the existence of a shadow government that guided the change that Head of Government Youssef Chahed made, without mentioning further details about the shadow government and those behind it. The press conference did not include journalists’ questions, and was instead a statement, although the Tunisian president had improvised it.

The Tunisian president’s press conference coincided with Nidaa Tounes Party’s call to its ministers in the government for resigning from the government or party, leading to new resignations from the party and not from the government until Thursday afternoon.

The Tunisian president said at the press conference, which did not include journalists’ questions under presidential orders, that: “The Head of Government or the shadow government, which exists and sometimes appears, wants to change the government.” He continued: “If the Authority is planning to distrust me or creating grounds to distrust me, I will not hold on to this party, and I will leave on my own.” He added: “If the authorities consider that I do not exist, I will leave and leave the house to those who had built it, but they are all dead and I might be the last one remaining.” He nevertheless did not mention who built the house and whom he meant. He went on: “However, I will not give up my responsibility as the president, and I will not degrade myself and bargain, or take any measures.”

The president reiterated his rejecting position against the new government, using the Nazi line “Germany, Germany above all else,” meaning “I am above all else.” He pointed out: “I am not at odds with the Head of Government. Everyone has their position. I am the president, and my position must be respected, Youssef Chahed is not in the same position as mine.”

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Essebsi mentioned the fifth point of Chapter (92) that stipulates that the Head of Government is obliged to inform the President of the Republic of everything he decides, in the context of his talk about the ministerial reshuffle the Head of Government announced without consulting with the president, as he put it. The president stated that he needed time to agree on or reject the reshuffle, while the Constitution does not give him the right to approve or reject it, and it instead stipulates that he should be informed.

At the same time, Essebsi expressed no regret for appointing Chahed as the Head of Government: “I do not regret appointing Youssef Chahed, but I admit my mistake and bear the consequences of my decisions.”

The president also revealed that the Head of Government Youssef Chahed was the one who asked to extend the state of emergency in light of the data and information provided, noting that “it is unreasonable to stay five years in a state of emergency.” He explained that he announced the extension in the emergency state as an acceptance of the request of the Head of Government: “I accepted the Head of Government’s request so as not to make the government take prohibited measures because my role is to facilitate the state’s matters.”

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed addresses lawmakers durinh the parliament session on vote of confidence for Hisham al-Furati appointed as Minister of the Interior, in Tunis, Tunisia on 28 July, 2018 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed addresses lawmakers durinh the parliament session on vote of confidence for Hisham al-Furati appointed as Minister of the Interior, in Tunis, Tunisia on 28 July, 2018 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

The Tunisian president explained that he would leave office if he were unable to run the country. He said: “If I realise that I can no longer make any decisions, I will leave my post on my own,”, using offending words. Essebsi added that “No one does not suffer from a problem in his body … Let us forget about things sought by the instigators. We are elected by the will of the people and the constitution, and I am the only president elected by the people after 2011,” he said.

Essebsi stressed at the press conference that his primary function is to ensure respect for the constitution, although some believe that he has no powers in the constitution. He said: “Some consider the President as a postman between the government and the Constituent Assembly. With all due respect for this profession, I cannot master it because anyone can not perform this job. I do not have the skills of this profession.” He said “We do not cling to the office, and we will leave it whenever it is necessary, although we are elected by the people. Those who want to isolate the president will indeed isolate the people.”

The Tunisian president acknowledged that the fate of the government is in the hands of the People’s Assembly and that if it gave it a vote of confidence, the presidency would respect it. He added that the current government is self-sustaining, and said that “Even if the government was not given a vote of confidence, I could not overthrow it, let alone if it was granted trust… But there are norms, traditions, and etiquette in the practice of politics, and there are a people who do not deserve what is happening today.” Essebsi stressed that we do not have to personalise the situation and that there is no conflict between him and the Head of the Government, recalling that he is the one who chose him for this position.

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Parliament is expected to vote next Thursday to cast a vote of confidence to the new government team, with expectations that it will gain confidence.

A number of the leaders of the Nidaa Tounes Party announced their resignations in line with the speech of the Tunisian President, the founder of the party, including Shukri Ben Hassan, a State Secretary to the Minister of Local Affairs and the Environment. The proposed figure in the partial ministerial reshuffle for the position of Minister to the Head of the Government in charge of social and solidarity economy has submitted his resignation of the Nidaa Tounes Party, and four other members of the government or proposed within the new structure had decided to resign from Nidaa Tounes. They are Mohamed Zine El Abidine, Sonia Ben Cheikh, Hedi Makni, and Radwan Ayara.

Nidaa Tounes Party and its political bureau, which met today, called on the members of the government belonging to the Nidaa Tounes party to immediately withdraw from this government, and the failure to abide by this decision will be considered as a final departure from the party and resignation of all its structures.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Mugtama on 11 November 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.