Ahead of 2019 elections, who is in the lead as the ruling party fractures after an outright feud between the prime minister and president?
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi rejected a cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who appointed 13 ministers to revitalise the government and find solutions to the country’s economic challenges.
The new appointments came following calls from his party to step down.
While the cabinet reshuffle may yet prove beneficial for Tunisia’s economy, it contributes to a deepening rift between the president and prime minister and their loyalists, both of whom are from the Nidda Tounes Party.
"Ennahda is prepared to take back what is theirs and has waited for the right time for this. Nidaa Tounes is having a crisis of leadership and vision, and have shown the world they are no longer fit for government," a source in the Ennahda party, who wishes to remain anonymous, told TRT World.
On September 24, President Essebsi ended a four-year alliance between his ruling party, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda party, which came second during the 2014 elections.
But the politics run deeper. Schisms exist even within Nidaa Tounes. President Essebsi’s son, Hafed Caid Essebsi, also the party leader, is pitted against Prime Minister Chahed, insisting he step down amidst attempts to push for a parliamentary vote of confidence.
An official within the same party described his own Prime Minister’s actions as a “coup against the path to democracy.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Chahed is counting on Ennahda's support to win him parliamentary approval for the reshuffle, in spite of the president’s criticism.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Imed Khemiri, spokesman for Ennahda, said that “under the powers granted to him in the constitution, Chahed has carried out an important ministerial reshuffle that we hope will give new hope for the performance of the government.”
Khemiri added that Ennahda, which holds 68 seats in parliament, “welcomes the reshuffle and hopes to end the political crisis that the country has been experiencing for months.”
Jauhar Ben Mbarek, a law professor, points out that Essebsi’s approval was not needed so long as the reshuffle did not affect the posts of defense and foreign ministers. The vote will be determined by Parliament, where Chahed has the support of the majority of his party and Ennahda.
What does Tunisia’s future hold?
While Nidaa Tounes suffers from an internal struggle for leadership, the Ennahda party is now emboldened to strike out on its own as the ruling party loses legitimacy in the public eye.
Even before the end of the alliance, Ennahda’s political stances had started opposing President Essebsi. With upcoming elections in 2019, the political fallout from the latest power struggle may shape the future of the country.