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New secular political party launched in Tunisia

January 28, 2019 at 2:01 am

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in Berlin, Germany on 14 February 2017 [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

The formation of Tahya Tounes (Long Live Tunisia), a new political party close to the current Head of Government Youssef Chahed, was announced on Sunday. Around 4,000 people attended the launch of the party in the city of Monastir.

The Head of the National Coalition bloc, the second largest in parliament with 44 out of 217 MPs, said that the former Director of the Presidential Cabinet in Tunisia, Selim Azabi, will be in charge of the party’s legal and political affairs until the election of office bearer can be organised.

“This project has been adopted by a broad spectrum of elites on the basis of the modernist project,” explained Mustapha Ben Ahmed. “It combines the median and modernist forces, and will work on preserving the modern state’s gains that adhere to the national movement.”

Observers say that Chahed is behind the formation of the party, after the deepening of the conflict between him and the Executive Director of Nidaa Tounes, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the son of the President of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi.

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Nidaa Tounes decided in mid-September last year to suspend Chahed’s membership of the party and ask the Disciplinary Committee to consider his dismissal. Officials claimed that he has been trying to split the party, which heads the ruling coalition.

According to Ben Ahmed, although Chahed is “one of the pillars” of the new party, he has no direct responsibility as he is he is a full-time government employee.

Selim Azabi told the launch meeting that Democratic Constitutional Rally affiliates are part of the formation process. In fact, the aforementioned party was dissolved in 2011. It was the party of the late President Habib Bourguiba who ruled from 1956 to 1987 as well as ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (1987-2011). Azabi stressed the need to “restore the political balance” with the aim of uniting the Rally affiliates and National Democrats.

“The new political force will not be based on leaderships,” he added. “It will aim at establishing democratic institutions on a participatory basis. Its path will continue based on the strength of such foundations. It will not deal with power as a prize, but it will be a means of governance derived from the experience of competent people and institutions.”

It is believed that the new secular party will play a pivotal role in the legislative and presidential elections that are expected to be held later in the year.