Deep rift in the Tunisian Parliament

The opposition questioned the drift taken by Rached Ghannouchi, while the parliamentary president called opposing calls for the dissolution of the House as "unconstitutional"
President of the Ennahda Islamist party, Rached Ghannouchi, speaks during a meeting in Tunis, Thursday, October 3, 2019

AP/HASSENE DRIDI  -   President of the Ennahda Islamist party, Rached Ghannouchi, speaks during a meeting in Tunis, Thursday, October 3, 2019

Absolute tension in the Assembly of Representatives of the People of Tunisia after the session convened by the opposition that served to question the ties of the president of parliament and leader of the Ennahda Islamist party, Rached Ghannouchi, with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group considered terrorist by several countries, and with nations such as Turkey and Qatar, which are causing destabilization in neighboring Libya through military and mercenary support for the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.  

Rached Ghannouchi criticized opposition proposals to dissolve Parliament as "confusing and unconstitutional", denouncing an alleged attempt to sabotage state institutions and disrupt the interests of the Tunisian people. 

A parliamentary session materialized yesterday and was led by the Free Desturian Party (PDL), led by lawyer Abir Moussi. In fact, the PDL organised a demonstration outside Parliament against the figure of Rached Ghannouchi.  

La líder del PDL, Abir Moussi, saluda con la mano mientras asiste a la primera sesión del Parlamento después de las elecciones de octubre, el 13 de noviembre de 2019, en la capital tunecina, calificándola de inconstitucional
AFP/FETHI BELAID - PDL leader Abir Moussi waves as she attends the first session of Parliament after the October elections on 13 November 2019 in the Tunisian capital, calling it unconstitutional

The Ennahda leader gave an interview to Qatar's state-owned Al-Jazeera in which he denounced an orchestrated campaign against him and his training: “The campaigns of incitement and the fabricated illusions about protests in Tunisia propagandised by suspicious foreign media, is an indisputable proof of the sabotage attempts targeting the Tunisian experience.” Ghannouchi stressed the seriousness of the opposition's attacks aimed at withdrawing parliamentary confidence and referred to the rules that exist for this type of procedure: “Regarding calls to sack the government or withdraw confidence in the parliament speaker, these issues can only be settled by referring to the constitution and the parliament’s internal code, as these kinds of decisions are determined by specific procedures and arrangements that have to be respected. Otherwise, we would drag the country into chaos.”

Ghannouchi wanted to defend himself and question the opposition's position by pointing out that the democratic path in Tunisia is threatened by those who try to distort and denigrate the so-called Arab springs. "The Arab Spring, which began and spread from Tunisia, is opposing many powers that fear freedom and seek to preserve their interests," said Ghannouchi. 

He said that this fierce strategy has even led to the fuelling of conflicts and civil wars, by supporting mercenaries and militias, and providing arms and military equipment to destabilize countries where popular revolutions have taken place, while aiming to overthrow legitimate governments, as is currently the case; in a clear allusion in this case to Libya, where the political force represented by Ennahda supports the GNA of Fayez Sarraj, supported by Turkey, Qatar and Italy and internationally recognized since 2016 by the United Nations (UN), and which receives strong military support from the Turkish Army and pro-Turkish paid militiamen from the war in Syria and who have been linked by various means to former affiliates of jihadist terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. This is in contrast to the action of the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is associated with the other government in the eastern city of Tobruk and who is trying to destroy the main resistant bastion of the LNA in the capital of Tripoli, arguing that the intention is to destroy the jihadist elements housed there in order to unify the country and carry out a subsequent democratic process. Ghannouchi added that this offensive seeks to restore military regimes and hand over power to the coup leaders, noting that this type of effort has been underway since 2011 and has gone through different phases. 

Los diputados tunecinos asisten a una sesión plenaria dedicada a debatir una moción presentada por el Partido Desturiano Libre (PDL) y la situación en Libia, el 3 de junio de 2020
AFP/FETHI BELAID - Tunisian MPs attend a plenary session to discuss a motion tabled by the PDL and the situation in Libya, 3 June 2020

On the civil war in Libya Ghannouchi made clear his position: “We think that the solution in Libya can only be political, as war cannot achieve stability, but it will rather deepen the rift between our Libyan brothers. The Libyan parties to the conflict are required to meet at the negotiation table and make mutual concessions in order to come up with a roadmap that would maintain unity in the country within the framework of democratic values, freedom and peaceful coexistence, away from rivalries, civil war, bloody coups and fuelling tribal conflicts. Our solid relations with our Libyan brothers do not permit us to stand aside.  

Rather, we must encourage them to reach a peaceful solution. Therefore, our position, which is the same as the official stance of the Tunisian state, was and still is consistent with the orientations of the international community in supporting the legitimacy that articulates the popular will in Libya. We are required in this regard to establish communication with the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli and the legitimate Tobruk Parliament. Passive neutrality on the Libyan issue is senseless; that is why we have been calling for positive neutrality by pushing the Libyan parties to reach a compromise and reach a political and peaceful solution” said Ennahda's president about the conflict in Libya, an interesting country due oil reserves and location in the Mediterranean, where various international powers are taking sides on each of the opposing sides. Ghannouchi's words were also picked up by the Middle East Monitor. This is the reason why the GNA receives the above-mentioned support from the UN, Turkey and Qatar; while the LNA counts on the support of Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt.  

Los diputados tunecinos discuten durante una sesión plenaria dedicada a debatir una moción presentada por el Partido Desturiano Libre (PDL) y la situación en Libia, el 3 de junio de 2020
AFP/FETHI BELAID - Tunisian MPs discuss a motion tabled by the PDL and the situation in Libya on 3 June 2020 during a plenary session

Tunisian Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi has warned that calls for dissolving the assembly are "recipes for chaos", words also echoed by the Turkish news agency Anadolu.  

In this interview, Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda movement, the largest bloc in Parliament (despite the setback suffered in the last elections), stressed that "obstructing state institutions and and the interests of citizens expresses chaos, not opposition. the state's duty to confront chaos and protect peaceful opposition," he asserted in a clearly veiled threat to the hard-line positions against him.  

Referring to the difficulties faced by the existing coalition government, formed on the basis of fragile agreements in the face of parliamentary fragmentation, Ghannouchi said that Tunisia "is facing unprecedented challenges due to the outbreak of coronavirus". He stressed that having solidarity and synergy within the Executive is basic to facing the challenges at this stage. The Speaker of Parliament called for national unity to enable the state to take urgent action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 disease.

The opposition continues to question relations between Ennahda's leader Rached Ghannouchi and both Qatar and Turkey, two countries questioned for their foreign diplomacy. The Eurasian nation presided over by Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes an active part in wars such as those in Libya and Syria with the inclusion of elements attached to former formations linked to extremist groups, as has been published in various media; all with the clear intention of positioning itself in the Mediterranean arc in a more intense way. Meanwhile, the Gulf monarchy is suffering from the political and economic embargo decreed by Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain since 2017, who accuse the country led by Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of supporting cross-border terrorism.  

On the other hand, the opposition parties also warn about the links of Ghannouchi and Ennahda with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group investigated by several Western countries for alleged links with jihadist terrorism. In fact, for example, several important figures of Al-Qaeda maintained an intense activity with the also called Muslim Brotherhood.  

Along these lines, MP Zouhair Makhlouf said he had evidence of Ennahda's involvement in the terrorist attacks and violence during the government of the late President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. 

In an interview with IFM radio, Makhlouf said that Ennahda had used Daesh's attacks, including the bombings and the coup d'état. "I have evidence of these plans," he told IFM, adding that the evidence he had was not in the possession of the Tunisian state. Makhlouf acknowledged he was prepared to be held accountable if investigated for his information and evidence. "There was a device that was handling the movement and was planning to bring in weapons and bombs and carry out preparation operations to target various security facilities in the Nabeul and El-Morouj areas," he said. "The Ennahda movement established a three-phase plan: the first was to reassure and appease; the second was based on stubbornness; and the third was to impose a policy to achieve a constitutional vacuum," he added.  

Los partidarios del PDL se manifiestan contra el presidente de la Asamblea, Rached Ghannouchi, frente al Parlamento de Túnez, el 3 de junio de 2020
AFP/FETHI BELAID - PDL supporters demonstrate against Assembly President Rached Ghannouchi in front of the Tunisian Parliament on 3 June 2020

Makhlouf explained that the constitutional vacuum would be created by the assassination of Ben Ali and his successors, which would allow Ennahda to take power. His accusations are likely to affect public opinion in Tunisia, especially since this Islamist party has been accused by its opponents of establishing a secret apparatus that was behind the murders of political opponents Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. 

In this regard, the MP for the Popular Front, Mongi Rahoui, indicated that the left-wing leaders were the first victims of this Islamist strategy, citing in particular the murders of Belaid and Brahmi, as well as the terrorist attacks perpetrated against the Tunisian security forces, serving only the Islamist agenda, as reported by the Kapitalis media. 

Rahoui told Ghannouchi in Parliament that the problem is he and his politics. "We know about his obscurantist project, which is only a continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood project," said the leftist parliamentarian.  

Ennahda was also accused of having links with extremist Salafist currents (linked to the Brotherhood), which turned Tunisia into a hotbed of militants, leading Tunisian youth to fight in conflict zones, especially in Syria and Libya.