Tunisia president's party re-elects head

2012-08-27 14:21

Tunis - The Congress for the Republic, the party of the Tunisian president, has re-elected as secretary general an ex-minister who quit the government in June, amid simmering tensions with the ruling Islamist party.

The CPR announced early on Monday, at the end of its annual conference, that Mohammed Abbou, who resigned as administrative reform minister in June over obstacles in the fight against corruption, would remain head of the party.

The political programme that the CPR was due to adopt at the three-day conference, elaborating its strategy ahead of planned elections next year and clarifying its direction, will be published later on Monday or on Tuesday, a spokesperson said.

The secular, centre-left party to which President Moncef Marzouki belongs, partners the moderate Islamist party Ennahda in Tunisia's ruling three-party coalition, alongside Ettakatol, another centre-left grouping.

Ennahda dominates the alliance, after winning the largest share of votes in legislative elections last October.

Tensions between the CPR and Ennahda resurfaced on Friday when Marzouki, at the start of the conference, strongly criticised the Islamists, prompting several top government officials with Ennahda to walk out, including Interior Minister Ali Larayedh.

Control of the media

"What complicates the situation is the growing feeling that our Ennahda brothers are working to control the administrative and political operations of the state," the president said in a letter read out by one of his advisers.

"This behaviour reminds us of the bygone era of ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali," Marzouki added, condemning "the appointment of supporters [of the Ennahda party to key posts] whether or not they are qualified".

The CPR's reappointment of Abbou, aged 46, as secretary general would appear to strengthen this position, given the former minister's criticism of the prime minister, Ennahda's Hamadi Jabali, for not doing enough in the fight against corruption.

The ruling Islamists have also come under fire from activists in recent weeks for interfering in the control of the media, for seeking to curtail women's rights and for failing to rein in Tunisia's resurgent Salafist movement.

And Marzouki, himself a veteran human rights activist and dissident under Ben Ali, has been criticised for not resisting the Islamist party's increasingly authoritarian tendencies.