Mehdi Jomaa, the ‘technocratic’ former Interim Prime Minister who oversaw the final phases of Tunisia’s transitional government, has broken into the top five of Tunisia’s most popular political figures, according to the results of a poll published on February 3, by Sigma-Conseil.
Abdelfattah Mourou, vice president of the both the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) and the Ennahda party topped the list.
Mourou is followed by the Minister of Education Neji Jalloul and Prime Minister Habib Essid, whom the poll suggests is far more popular with the Tunisian people than the Tunisian media.
Mehdi Jomaa’s resurgence places him right at the heels of President Beji Caid Essebsi, whose popularity appears to be in freefall as his political party Nidaa Tounes continues to fragment following a disastrous party congress in Sousse last month.
Mehdi Jomaa’s return to political prominence comes a week after his announcement that he, and several ministers from his ‘caretaker’ government, were forming a think-tank with an eye towards a ‘political project’ and Jomaa’s own return to politics.
At a meeting with President Beji Caid Essebsi, less than a fortnight ago, in which the two discussed the policy driven think tank dubbed ” Tunisia Alternatives” (Tunisie Alternatives) Jomaa named several of the project’s prospective members. Many members of Tunisia Alternatives will be familiar to Tunisians as having steered the country beyond the political crisis of 2013 after mediation by the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize recipient National Dialogue Quartet negotiated a power transfer from the Troika to Mehdi Jomaa’s technocratic caretaker government.
Ridha Sfar, who served as Minister of State for Security in Jomaa’s government, appears set to be the General Coordinator of Alternatives Tunisia. Sfar will be in familiar company, many former members of Jomaa’s Cabinet have already been named by Jomaa in interviews and press appearances in the past week as taking part in Tunisia Alternatives. Including: Taoufi Jelassi, Hakim Ben Hammouda, Kamel Bennaceur, Fathi Jarray, Hafedh Laamouri, Mourad Sakli, Anouar Ben Khlifa, and Ridha Abdelhafidh. While the growing list of ‘sympathizers and contributors’ to Tunisia Alternatives, upwards of 200, is far more indicative of a political party than a discussion group for Tunisian policy wonks.
Were Tunisia Alternatives to entertain notions of becoming an outright political party, (which it certainly appears to be) it would be the second ‘viable’ political party to begin coalescing in a very young 2016.
Ahead of the Nidaa Tounes debacle in Sousse, the party’s former Secretary General Mohsen Marzouk announced he would be creating an as of yet unnamed political party from disaffected members of Nidaa Tounes.
Although Mohsen Marzouk supporters amongst ARP deputies have formed a bloc named Al-Horra, which cemented its status as the third largest behind Ennahda and the remnants of Nidaa Tounes, the party itself is unnamed.
When Marzouk first stated his ‘plan to form’ the as of yet unnamed party, he announced it would be launched on March 2, 2016. A date chosen to coincide with the 82nd anniversary of founding of the Neo-Destour party. The Neo-Destour was formed and headed by Tunisia’s independence leader Habib Bourguiba after Bourguiba himself split from the original Destour party.
The Neo-Destour was the political vehicle through which Bourguiba achieved Tunisia’s independence from France and launched Tunisia on a secular Republican path. A path which some, Mohsen Marzouk, say Nidaa Tounes, which through its rapprochement to Ennahda has strayed too far from.