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Essebsi: Ennahda statement is a threat

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi gives a press conference in Tunis, Tunisia on November 8, 2018 [Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images]
Late Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis, Tunisia on 8 November 2018 [Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images]

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said on Thursday that Ennahda movement’s statement, which was issued Tuesday after his meeting with the defence team of left-wing leaders Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi who were assassinated in 2013, “is a threat to the presidency,” in the first escalation of its kind of the president against Ennahda.

In his speech to the National Security Council, which was held Thursday at the presidential palace in Carthage, Essebsi said that “this meeting has angered Ennahda movement… We will not accept this threat, and we will resort to justice.”

This is the first escalation of its kind of the president against the Tunisian Ennahda movement.

Last Tuesday, Ennahda movement (68 deputies out of a total of 217) warned of the danger of involving the presidency in the affairs of the judiciary.

Ennahda explained in its statement that it “warns of the seriousness of the involvement of the presidency in influencing the independence of the judiciary, and engaging it in political quarrels by the manipulators of the cause of the martyrs Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.”

READ: Ennahda warns of the presidency’s involvement in the affairs of the judiciary

Ennahda considered that the defence team of Belaid and Brahmi had carried out “false attacks and false accusations” against it.

Last Monday, a presidential statement posted on its Facebook account said that: “the members of the delegation (defence team) presented to the President of the Republic, in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and the President of the National Security Council, a report on the latest developments regarding the assassination of martyrs Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, especially with regard to the secret apparatus of a Tunisian party,” in reference to Ennahda movement.

The presidential statement added that “the members of the delegation submitted to the President of the Republic a request of the National Security Council’s commitment to the file and the formation of a special committee headed by a national figure to check in some relevant data.” In a press conference last October, the defence team of left-wing opposition activists Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi accused Ennahda of forming a “secret apparatus” involved in political assassinations.

In his speech on Thursday, Essebsi said: “I work for Tunisia’s interest… I am not against any party. I have no problem with it (Ennahda Movement party). They are in the political scene, and we must deal with them.”

He pointed out that he “receives any party that wants to meet him (about his meeting with the defence team) … But I do not control what they say; I listen to them only.”

Ennahda surprised

Ennahda said in a statement Tuesday that it was surprised by the publication of the official page of the presidency of the republic of some political parties’ allegations (the Popular Front). It asserted that they aim at insulting another political party through false and fabricated accusations, and attacking the national political leaders of the Carthage Palace, in a dangerous step that contradicts the neutrality of the official party and the role of the Constitutional Presidency, the symbol of national unity and the prestige of the state.”

Ennahda called on the various parties to take advantage of the end of the political crisis the country witnessed in recent months (…) and not to poison the atmosphere again in the service of narrow political agendas that conflict with the national interest of the country, hoping to disrupt the democratic and electoral processes.”

READ: Saudis will lend Tunisia $500m and finance projects -sources

 Ennahda renewed its keenness on partnership and agreement with various political and social forces in the country, especially the President of the Republic, to confront all the challenges and overcome all the difficulties that Tunisia went through. The party insisted that the judiciary is the sole judge regarding the issues raised in the country in the service of the desired justice.”

Essebsi ends its agreement with Ennahda

Last September, Essebsi said that Ennahda movement ended a five-year agreement.

He said in an interview with the private El-Hiwar El-Tounisi channel: “In the last week, we decided to cut off relations at the request of Ennahda.”

The president explained: “We have been dealing with Ennahda for the past five years since 15 August 2013 (Essebsi’s meeting with Ennahda President Rached Ghannouchi in Paris for agreement) to the last week.”

The Tunisian president said that Ghannouchi was convinced that “the country is more important than the parties, so there was relative stability which was positive for the country.”

He explained the end of the agreement by the fact that “Ennahda wants that Youssef Chahed to remain Head of the Government.”

Essebsi said:

I am a civilised person. We met last week, and we had a conversation with Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi, with whom I have a great friendship. But, in matters of state, there is no friendship.

Essebsi explained that by ending the agreement with Ennahda: “We have got into a new adventure (which he did not make clear), of which I am innocent.”

He confirmed that he defended the option not to exclude Ennahda, and stressed that it cost him a lot, without providing further details.

Essebsi explained his defence of the agreement that he had as a “commitment to the homeland.”   There was no immediate comment from the government or the Ennahda movement on Essebsi’s statements.

Suspension of “Carthage Document II” negotiations

Observers of Tunisia think that the essence of the dispute between the Tunisian president and Ennahda movement is the refusal of the latter Essebsi’s demand to dismiss the Head of the Government, Youssef Chahed, during the Carthage Document II dialogues, which Essebsi announced its ending at the end of May.

In May, Essebsi decided to suspend the “Carthage Document,” a document signed by various forces in the country, which sets the government’s priorities to “indefinite time.”

READ: Tunisia cabinet approves equal inheritance law

Essebsi’s decision was taken because of the differences between the signatories to the document regarding a partial or comprehensive change of government.

A total of 63 points were agreed upon in the “Carthage Document II” concerning the political, economic and social programme for the coming period, but no agreement was reached on the fate of the Chahed government.

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