After a series of notable losses of party figures to resignations and defections in the last two months governing coalition junior member, the Free Patriotic Union (UPL-L’Union Patriotique Libre) announced a series of new party appointments on Sunday, May 22, after a party meeting in Sousse.
If the refurbishing of its internal party structures was an attempt by party President Slim Riahi to move beyond a series of resignations and disunion, which have seem the party quarrel with fellow governing coalition parties and amongst its own members, it failed.
Within twenty four hours, Jamel Tlili, who had been appointed deputy secretary general UPL’s political bureau resigned from the party claiming he had not even been made aware of his appointment or nomination.
Then on Wednesday, May 25, the executive director of the party, Samir Maghraoui, also resigned from the UPL. In a letter announcing his resignation he criticized Slim Riahi for considering ‘the party a one man project’.
In addition to Tlili’s rejected nomination the UPL appointed a new Secretary General in Hatem El Euchi, who is also the current Minister of State Property and Land Affairs. Although El Euchi is believed to have accepted the post, (the lack of a resignation will be considered an acceptance in light of the circumstances.) his appointment to the vacant secretary general position reminds observers that in a little over a month the UPL has seen one incident after another wither away the party from within.
Its previous Secretary General, Minister of Sports and Youth Maher Ben Dhia, resigned from the party in April after Slim Riahi, who is also the president of the Club Africain football club in Tunis, directed a public tirade at Ben Dhia. The mercurial Riahi accused Ben Dhia of laxism towards the Tunisian Football Federation, which Riahi accused of corruption after the Club Africain lost to Etoile Sportive du Sahel in April.
When Minister Maher Ben Dhia resigned and the UPL lost one of the ministry appointments it had within the coalition, Riahi unsuccessfully called on Prime Minister Essid to replace Ben Dhia as minister.
This was followed by three of its deputies in the 217 seat Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) who resigned from the UPL earlier in May and subsequently joined Nidaa Tounes.
In response on Monday, May 16, the UPL announced the freezing of its activities in the ruling coalition. According to a UPL statement, by integrating the three deputies into its parliamentary bloc Nidaa Tounes is in violation of an agreement between coalition members not to poach or accept each other’s migratory deputies.
With the three former UPL members included Nidaa Tounes now holds 59 seats in the ARP behind Ennahda’s 69 seats, the UPL which now holds twelve seats remains ahead of Afek Tounes and its ten seats.
The coalition currently includes the UPL as well as Ennahda, Nidaa Tounes and Afek Tounes.
A survey conducted between May 16 and 19 by Emrhod Consulting which involved 1022 Tunisian citizens throughout Tunisia’s 24 governorates, with a possible margin of error of 3%, released earlier this week asked respondents which party they would vote for if a hypothetical election were held that day, the UPL did not break the top five.
Nidaa Tounes 29.6%
Popular Front 12.4%
Machrou Tounes 7.1%
Afek Tounes 5.9%