Tunisian President, and founder of Nidaa Tounes, Beji Caid Essebsi opened a two day party congress in Sousse, a day after seventeen deputies in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) resigned from the party.
Hassan Farhalli, Head of Communications at ARP announced on his official Facebook page that after Friday’s resignations, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda are now equally represented in the ARP with 69 seats each.
Around 1400 attendees are expected the two day congress amidst heavy security
in Sousse’s Port el Kantouai resort area. El Kantouai was the scene of an attack claimed by Islamic State affiliated Jund al Khilafa which killed thirty eight mostly British tourists in June.
Several foreign ambassadors are expected as are the heads of several opposition parties including Rached Ghannouchi of Ennahda, Slim Riahi of the Union Patriotique Libre (UPL) and Yassine Brahim the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation who also heads Afek Tounes.
The UGTT and UTICA, co recipients of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, currently on opposite sides of labor negotiations are also expected to send delegations.
The resignations mark the formalization of a split between factions in the party loyal to its former Secretary General Mohsen Marzouk, who defected late last year over claims Hafedh Essebsi, son of Tunisia’s President and party founder Beji Caid Essebsi, was attempting a hereditary takeover of the party’s leadership. Party loyalists, on the other hand, claim it is Marzouk’s own presidential ambitions which have caused the rift.
Mohsen Marzouk announced, in a press conference on Wednesday, that he intends to create a new political party comprised of his fellow Nidaa Tounes defectors and ‘other political figures’.
Marzouk added that the, as of yet unnamed party, would be launched on March 2, 2016. A date which would 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 he (Bourguiba) split from the Destour party.
Indications are several more deputies may follow, which would see Ennahda become the ARP’s largest party bloc. Even without further resignations to bolster their ranks, the seventeen deputies together would form the third largest bloc in the ARP, ahead of the UPL (16 seats) and Afek Tounes (8 seats).