Mass Resignations Leave Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood In Charge Of Parliament

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Reuters is reporting that following a mass resignation of parliamentarians from the ruling Party, the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood is now the majority party. According to the report:

Thirty two Tunisian lawmakers accused President Beji Caid Essebsi’s son of meddling and resigned from the ruling party bloc in parliament on Monday, allowing Islamist rivals to become the largest party.

Tunisia has enjoyed a period of political stability following its transition to democracy after its 2011 uprising ousted autocrat Zine Abidine Ben Ali, but earlier this month brawling broke out between two factions of the Nidaa Tounes party over what critics say were attempts by Essebsi’s son to seize control.

‘We decided to resign from the party’s bloc today after the refusal to hold an executive committee meeting, which is the only legitimate structure of the party,’ Hassouna Nasfi, one of the protesting deputies told reporters on Monday.

‘We resigned to protest the non-democratic way in which the party has been managed.’

The resignations may complicate attempts to push through sensitive reforms that Tunisia’s international lenders are demanding to curb public spending and kickstart an economy hit by two major Islamist militant attacks this year.

Nidaa Tounes, founded by Essebsi, emerged as a political force in 2013 to lead popular protests against the Islamist Ennahda government, eventually forcing it to step down and make way for a non-partisan transitional government and new elections.

It beat Ennahda in elections last year and went on to form a coalition with its rival. But cracks began to emerge over the party’s structure, direction and appointments after Essebsi senior was elected president and stepped down as its leader.

After the resignations, the Ennahda Islamist party has 67 seats and Nidaa Tounes 54 seats in parliament.

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The Ennahda Party of Tunisia is headed by Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) who can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is strongly tied to the Global Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian writer Amany Maged presents his view of the relationship between the Ennahda party and Ghannouchi to the Global Muslim Brotherhood:

Al-Nahda Party’s articles of association do not declare a link to the Muslim Brotherhood, but nor has it denied the connection. Some sources maintain that it was ideologically and organisationally inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, whereas others say that while Ghannouchi considers the Muslim Brotherhood an ally, he does not see it as having any authority, be it hierarchical or moral, over his own movement. Yet the fact remains that Ghannouchi, Al-Nahda’s founder, is a member of the International Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood.Al-Nahda shares a number of traits with the Muslim Brotherhood. Both, says Islamist expert Ali Abdel-Aal, have a strong organisational capacity and access to substantial funds.

The UK-based Henry Jackson Society has published a report titled “Moderates or Manipulators? Tunisia’s Ennahda Islamists” detailing the extremist positions and statements of the Ennahda Party and Rachid Ghannouchi.

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