Struggle over leadership deepens divisions in Tunisia president’s party

Tunisia's prime minister accused Hafedh Caid Essebsi, above, in exporting the party's problems to the state. (AFP/File)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Struggle over leadership deepens divisions in Tunisia president’s party

  • The increased divisions in the party will make it harder to face the rivaling party in elections
  • The divisions started in 2015 when Essebsi’s son was criticized for seeking to gain control over the party

TUNIS: Tunisia’s ruling party Nidaa Tounes on Saturday elected two leaders, one of them the president’s son, in two parallel congresses, deepening the division that has hit the party in recent years.
The new crisis that hit Nidaa Tounes comes months ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections expected in October and November, which could complicate its competition against the rival Ennahda moderate Islamist party. Although the slogan of the first electoral congresses of Nidaa Tounes which started last week was “unity,” it ended by dividing into two congresses.
The first congress elected the lawmaker Sofian Toubel as head of the party’s central committee. The second elected Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the son of the president Beji Caid Essebsi.
The divisions have shaken the party since 2015, as Essebsi’s son has been criticized for seeking to control the party, prompting many of its leaders to resign.
The prime minister Youssef Chahed also entered into a row with Hafedh Caid Essebsi and accused him of exporting the party’s problems to the state. “The congresses of Monastir (in which Essesbi’s son was elected) is illegal and an attempt to deflect legitimacy,” said party official Ons Hattab.
Essesbi’s son denied the accusations and said he was surprised by the behavior of some leaders who went to a parallel conference, adding that this could affect the party.
The parliamentary race is expected to be fought closely by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the more secular Tahya Tounes party of Prime Minister Chahed, and the Nidaa Tounes.
The parties rule the North African country together but their coalition has been hit by infighting that has hampered decision-making and slowed economic reforms demanded by foreign donors.
No prominent figure has so far declared their candidacy for the presidency this year.
Tunisia has won widespread praise for its democratic transition since 2011, but nine Cabinets have failed to resolve economic problems that include high inflation and unemployment.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.