Tunisia Weekly Update: Creation of Joint Ennahda-Nidaa Tounes Committee Sparks Controvers

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Creation of Joint Ennahda-Nidaa Tounes Committee Sparks Controversy

Latest IRI Poll Reveals Growing Pessimism

Human Rights Watch Critical of Corruption Arrests

Investigation Launched into Terror Funding

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Creation of Joint Ennahda-Nidaa Tounes Committee Sparks Controversy: On June 6, Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes formed [Fr] a coordinating committee with the aim of bridging political differences. The meeting brought [Fr] together Ennahda head Rached Ghannouchi, Nidaa Tounes executive director Hafedh Caid Essebsi, and other party representatives. This committee marks the first of its kind since the establishment of the rival parties’ parliamentary alliance in 2014, when Ennahda surprised some observers by joining Nidaa Tounes’ governing coalition. Mongi Harbaoui, an MP of Nidaa Tounes, stated that the committee was designed not only to form a consensus between the two parties but also to preserve the stability in the country. On June 12, the president of the Ennahda Shura Council, Abdelkarim Harouniassured [Fr] that “the alliance between the Ennahda party and Nidaa Tounes is not a coalition but a union to counteract the crises that are shaking the country.” Nevertheless, this announcement has sparked controversy both on social media [Fr, Ar] and among parties.

On Thursday, June 8, in a statement [Fr] 21 of 27 Nidaa Tounes’ regional coordinators denounced the “slippage of the party towards the unknown and the deviation of its original ideology.” They also criticized “the flagrant infiltrations within Nidaa and the violation of laws and internal regulations,” calling the joint communiqué “conditioned by political agendas of which the citizens are not aware.” Following the public denouncement, 20 regional coordinators of Nidaa Tounes met on June 11 with the leadership of the party and issued [Fr] a statement to affirm their support for the leadership and its strategic choices. From the original 21 opposing regional coordinators, eight changed their positions and joined the support of the declaration.

Nevertheless, rumors [Fr] have emerged regarding another split in Nidaa Tounes. Some of the regional coordinators, representing the faction of the party opposed to the joint communique with Ennahda, met with members of the political bureau of the party on June 11 in Sousse. Rumors suggest they may create a new political party as members prepare to join a parliamentary bloc that will support Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

IRI Poll Highlights Economic Crisis: A new poll from the International Republican Institute (IRI) reveals that popular perceptions of the Tunisian economy are at an all-time low. “This survey reflects mounting frustration over Tunisia’s economic situation and persistent pessimism over the country’s trajectory,” said Scott Mastic, IRI Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is crucial that the government take steps to address obstacles to economic growth and restore confidence in the government’s ability to build a better future for Tunisia.” A combined 89 percent of Tunisians describe the economy as either “very bad” (63 percent) or “somewhat bad” (26 percent). When asked about the best way to improve the economy, 85 percent cited fighting corruption and bribery as a “very good” option. The poll also indicates that terrorism dropped from the second largest concern of Tunisians (after unemployment) in May 2016 to the fourth in April 2017. The major concerns of Tunisians are currently unemployment, economic and financial crisis, and corruption.
U.S. Visa for Nidaa Tounes Official Rejected: Earlier this month, the American embassy denied [Ar] a visa to Sofiene Toubel, the president of Nidaa Tounes. Toubel was scheduled to travel with a parliamentary delegation [Fr] to visit the U.S. Senate, accompanied by Lakhdhar Bouchat from the Ennahdha party and Mohamed Troudi from the Machrou party. When asked to comment upon the refusal, the U.S. embassy stated, “We cannot discuss visa cases.” Toubel is currently a highly controversial figure in Tunisian politics due to his ties with arrested businessman Chafik Jerraya, who has been accused [Fr] of “buying” MPs from Nidaa Tounes. Toubel claimed [Fr] that he remains friends with Jerraya, stating that, “Every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law.”

Foreign Affairs

Human Rights Watch Reacts to Corruption Arrests: The Tunisian government’s treatment of Chafik Jerraya, the businessman arrested [Fr] in May on corruption suspicions, has generated concern from international groups and advocates. On May 26, a military prosecutor accused [Fr] Jerraya of treason and collaboration with a foreign army, two charges punishable by the death penalty. Human Rights Watch released a statement on June 9 stating, “The referral of a businessman to trial before a military court, and the incommunicado detention of seven other men in undisclosed locations, is a threat to human rights in Tunisia.”

On June 6, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed justified the measures under Tunisia’s state of emergency law. “This is an exceptional situation and it requires exceptional measures. These people represent a threat to state security.” Tunisian law confers wide jurisdiction on military courts over various acts committed by civilians as well as by military personnel. Amna GuellaliTunisia director at Human Rights Watch, has stated that “a genuine democratic transition has no place for military trials for civilians or secret detention, no matter how serious the charges.”

Investigation Launched into Terrorism Funding: On June 7, the Libyan army accused [Fr] Qatari colonel Salem Ali Jarboui of financing the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Libya through bank accounts he manages from Tunisia. Libyan National Army spokesman Ahmed Mesmari said that Jarboui is acting from Tunisia and “contributes to the financial and moral disaster in the Maghreb region.” The colonel added that Jarboui had bribed Tunisian and Libyan lieutenants. “This person even transferred the sum of $8 billion to a bank branch in Tataouine. This money is then transferred to Libya and several other countries, ” he said.

On June 9, the Al Horra parliamentary bloc demanded [Fr] an investigation of Qatari money in Tunisia in a letter to Acting Minister of Finance Fadhel Abdelkefi. On June 7, Defense Minister Farhat Horchani announced [Fr] the launch of an investigation into the allegations. The rift between Qatar and the GCC prompted a pro-Qatar demonstration organized on the evening of June 9 in front of the Qatari embassy in Tunis. Participants denounced the blockade, hailed the neutrality of Tunis in the crisis, and urged the Gulf States to revise their policy. There are an estimated 25,000 Tunisian residents in Qatar.

Tunisia Participates in G20 Conference: President Beji Caid Essebsi participated [Fr] in the G20 Africa Partnership conference in Berlin, a conference aimed at revamping opportunities to boost investment on the African continent to ensure sustainable growth, economic recovery, and job creation. On June 12, Essebsi expressed [Fr] satisfaction with the launch of the Africa Partnership initiative in addition to the choice of Tunisia as among the first group benefiting from this initiative. In his speech, he emphasized that “priority will be given to structured projects that have an impact on the employability of young people and the development of rural areas.”

Later that day, Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui announced [Fr] that Tunisia and Germany signed an agreement at the Africa Partnership Forum from which Tunisia will receive a three-year, 300 million euro grant to support the state budget.

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