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Tunisia party crisis deepens as lawmakers suspend membership

AFP , Wednesday 4 Nov 2015
Hafhed Caid Essebsi (C), son of Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi, arrives for a meeting with leaders of the Nidaa Tounes party in Tunis, Tunisia November 3, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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Thirty lawmakers from Tunisia's ruling Nidaa Tounes party suspended their membership Wednesday, deepening a crisis threatening to split the party and destabilise the government.

The secularist Nidaa Tounes, elected to power last year in a vote hailed as democratic victory after Tunisia's Arab Spring revolt, has been riven by months of infighting.

Supporters of its secretary general, Mohsen Marzouk, accuse President Beji Caid Essebsi's son Hafedh of trying to seize control of the party.

The crisis has come to a head after accusations that Essebsi supporters armed with sticks on Sunday blocked rival party members from a meeting of its executive committee.

On Wednesday, pro-Marzouk lawmakers among the party's 86 parliamentarians said they were suspending their membership at least until a November 12 meeting of the party's executive committee.

In a statement, they threatened to "leave the parliamentary bloc" of the party "unless the situation improves".

"We are not seeking to divide the party and we do not belong to anyone," one of the lawmakers, Abeda Kefi, told a press conference.

He nonetheless denounced "a desire to carry out a putsch" among supporters of Hafedh Caid Essebsi.

"The party is unable to meet -- its structures are broken," Kefi said.

The rivalry threatens to potentially tear apart the government in a country held up as a rare success story for the Arab Spring after its 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

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