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.


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 26 min 6 sec ago
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.