Senior party members cited Ennahdha’s failure to confront what they called an ‘imminent tyrannical danger’.
More than 100 prominent members of Tunisia’s Ennahdha party have resigned in protest against the leadership’s performance, denouncing its inability to form a united front against what they see as President Kais Saied’s attempt to stage a coup.
In a statement on Saturday, 113 senior officials from Tunisia’s largest party announced they resigned over its failure to confront what they called an “imminent tyrannical danger”.
The group blamed Ennahdha for its inability to form a common front to oppose Saied’s power grab, which began with the decision to sack the government and suspend parliament on July 25.
In the latest presidential decree announced on Wednesday, the former law professor strengthened presidential powers at the expense of the government and parliament, ignoring parts of the constitution and altering Tunisia’s political system.
Among the signatories of the Ennahdha statement were eight lawmakers and several former ministers, including former Minister of Health Abdellatif Mekki, who said in a Facebook post that he was deeply saddened by the decision but saw the decision as inevitable.
“I have no choice,” he said. “We must confront the coup for the sake of Tunisia.”
Some Ennahdha officials had called for the resignation of their leader Rached Ghannouchi, the parliament speaker, over the party’s response to the political crisis.
Ennahdha has reiterated that it considered Saied’s decision to suspend parliament and sack the prime minister as “unconstitutional”, but has taken a conciliatory approach, calling on the president to reverse the measures.
Rabeb Aloui, an independent journalist in Tunis, told Al Jazeera that tensions within the party had been brewing for some time.
In September 2020, 100 members of Ennahdha had been against Ghannouchi’s nomination for a third term as leader of the party, which he has dominated since 1991.
“I think this is the biggest crisis that the Ennahdha party has lived,” Aloui said, referring to Saturday’s resignations.
“It was expected since the tensions started one year ago,” Aloui said, adding however that the extent of the mutiny had taken many observers by surprise.
Ennahdha has been the most powerful party in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution, playing a role in backing successive coalition governments.
In the days that followed July 25, Ghannouchi had called on MPs and supporters to stage a sit-in outside parliament denouncing the president’s “coup”. He later moved to a position of containment, rather than opposition, after the turnout had been lower than expected.
The president has claimed his move was necessary to put an end to the government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, the country’s economic stagnation, and political infighting.
It was met with jubilation by large swaths of the Tunisian population. Ennahdha party flags were burned and the party offices were targeted in some parts of the country.