Ruling Party Resignations Expose Tunisia’s Rifts

Ruling Party Resignations Expose Tunisia’s Rifts
Nidaa Tounes party leader Beji Caid Essebsi during a speech at an electoral meeting, Tunis, Tunisia, Nov. 15, 2014 (AP photo by Aimen Zine).

Mounting tensions between opposing factions of Tunisia’s ruling Nidaa Tounes party came to a head Monday, when 32 of its 86 lawmakers announced their resignation from the governing bloc in parliament. Just days prior, a meeting of the party’s executive board turned violent, indicating that long-simmering internal feuds might finally boil over.

If confirmed, the shakeup would leave Nidaa Tounes’ coalition partner, Ennahda, the Islamist party that was elected in 2011 to lead the constitution-drafting process that ended last year, with the plurality of seats in parliament—69 of 217.

Divisions within Nidaa Tounes are not new. The party, which comprises an amalgam of leftist-unionists, former members of deposed President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) party, liberals and followers of the late Habib Bourguiba—Tunisia's first post-independence president—known as Destourians, initially united in opposition to Ennahda and the political Islam it represents. But after Nidaa Tounes won the 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections, it formed a coalition government with the Islamist party. Many in Nidaa Tounes objected to the move, reiterating their opposition to political Islam, which had been the cornerstone of the party’s platform.

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