BEIRUT

Middle East

Tunisia minister resignation deepens government problems

Tunisian Administrative Reform Minister Mohammed Abbou. (AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID)

TUNIS: Tunisia's anti-corruption minister has quit, accusing the government of failing to do enough to overhaul the public sector and root out corruption, in a move that shows deepening cracks in the Islamist-led ruling coalition.

The weekend's resignation of Administrative Reform Minister Mohammed Abbou follows a spat last week between the Tunisian president and the government over the latter's decision to extradite Moammar Gadhafi's former prime minister without the president's knowledge.

Analysts said on Monday that the resignation shows growing contrast within the ruling coalition and may plunge Tunisia - the first Arab country to oust its leader and hold free elections as Arab Spring uprisings spread around the region last year - into crisis.

The government, already facing accusations that it failed to create jobs and rein in radical Islamists, faces a no-confidence vote over the extradition decision, though it is expected to survive it.

"The resignation of Mohammed Abbou dispels the notion that the ruling coalition is coherent and will not disintegrate," said Nabil Zagdoud, a Tunisian journalist and analyst. "The resignation deepens the contrast within the ruling coalition and may enter the country into crisis."

The moderate Islamist Ennahda party won 42 percent of seats in the first elections of the Arab Spring in October, and went on to form a coalition government with two far smaller and weaker secular parties, including President Moncef Marzouki's Conference for a Republic party.

Abbou, who is the Conference for a Republic's secretary-general, said he had decided to step down because the government had refused to give him the authority to investigate corruption cases and overhaul the public sector as promised after last year's revolution.

"The main reason for my resignation is the Tunisian administration's refusal to change, while I see that the administration needs major changes because it is full of corruption," Abbou told reporters on Saturday.

Tunisia has so far made a relatively smooth transition to democracy, but the collapse of the coalition government could pose serious challenges. Any prolonged crisis could hamper efforts to revive the economy and draft a new constitution ahead of elections for a full four-year parliament planned for next year.

Ennahda has been accused by opponents of unilateral behavior and failure to consult the constituent assembly on sensitive issues.

No date has been set for the no-confidence vote, which was pushed by a group of lawmakers in the wake of the government's decision to extradite Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi to Libya.

 

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