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Tunisia: More than 100 officials resign from Ennahda Party over 'failed' leadership

Officials say the party is isolated and has been unable to form a common front against President Kais Saied's actions
Ennahda has been the most powerful party in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution and the ousting of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (AFP)

More than 100 prominent officials of Tunisia's Ennahda party, including lawmakers and former ministers, resigned on Saturday in protest at the leadership's performance.

Ennahda, the largest party in parliament, has been split over its response to President Kais Saied's sacking of the government and suspension of parliament on 25 July.

In a statement, 113 senior officials from the party said they had resigned due to wrong choices by Ennahda's leadership, which had led to its isolation and failure to engage in any common front to confront Saied's decisions.

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Among the resignations are eight lawmakers and several ex-ministers, including former Minister of Health Abdellatif Mekki.

"I feel deeply sad... I feel the pain of separation... but I have no choice after I tried for a long time, especially in recent months... I take responsibility for the decision that I made for my country," Mekki said on Facebook.

Following Saied's move two months ago, some Ennahda officials have demanded that its leader Rached Ghannouchi, the parliament speaker, resign over the party's response to the crisis and strategic choices he has made since the 2019 election.

Last month, Ghannouchi dismissed the party’s executive committee in an effort to calm the protests against him.

Saturday's statement pointedly blamed Ghannouchi for making "bad political choices" and striking "inappropriate alliances" with other movements that "undermined Ennahdha's credibility".

Ghannouchi had "failed" and "refused all the advice" that was given to him, the statement added.

'Peaceful struggle'

On Thursday, Ghannouchi called for a "peaceful struggle" against a return to "absolute one-man rule," a day after Saied had taken steps towards rule by decree.

"There is no longer any alternative to struggle, naturally a peaceful struggle," the Ennahda leader said in an interview with AFP.

Saied on Wednesday announced decrees that strengthen the powers of his office at the expense of the government and parliament.

Four other parties and the country's largest trade union also on Thursday expressed deep discontent with Saied’s moves.

Ghannouchi, 80, camped out for 12 hours in front of parliament in Tunis after Saied's power grab.

"The situation is worse now than it was before 25 July," he said in Thursday's interview.

Before that "there were no arrests over blog posts, no thousands of Tunisians banned from leaving the country".

'Unify Ennahda'

Ennahda has been the most powerful party in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution that led to the ousting of its long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and has played a key role in backing successive coalition governments.

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It is the most organised party in the deeply fragmented 217-seat legislature, but since 2014 the party's share of the vote has plummeted.

The party has also seen internal fractures in recent years as younger members have demanded changes at the top, including replacing Ghannouchi himself.

"The one positive aspect of the president’s decisions is that they will unify Ennahda with other political parties and unify Ennahda itself," Ghannouchi said on Thursday.

Asked if his party would take part in elections if Saied was to call them, he said that "we would take part, absolutely."