Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, is accused of using his position to promote the Islamist agenda

Controversy in Tunisia over Parliament's President's contacts with Turkey and Qatar

PHOTO/AP - Tunisian Islamist party leader Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi

The Tunisian Parliament rejected a request from the opposition to hold a public debate on the contacts of the President of the Parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, with Turkey, Qatar and prominent representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya.

The Anti-Islamic PDL accused Ghannouchi, who is also the head of the Ennahda Islamist party in Tunisia, of using his role as president of parliament to support the regional agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The executive office of Parliament, which sets the agenda for legislative debates, said Thursday that the accusation has no legal basis. But PDL chief Abir Moussi has doubled his claims against Ghannouchi and said he would take the case to court.

Moussi denounced the contacts Ghannouchi allegedly made in the last few days, saying they violated Tunisian law as well as "diplomatic and parliamentary rules. Speaking to a private radio station in Tunis, Moussi accused the president of parliament of withholding information about his contacts from MPs and the general public. She reiterated his criticism in a video posted on his party's official Facebook page, alleging a "dangerous" cover-up that he said was taking place in Ghannouchi's name.

Fotografía de archivo del viernes 2 de agosto de 2019, la  presidenta del PDL, Abir Moussi
Compromising conversations

Moussi pointed to a phone call that Ghannouchi received from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was published by the Turkish news agency "Anadolu" on 25 April, but which was not picked up on Ghannouchi's official website.

Moussi frequently denounces the Islamist party Ennahda and Ghannouchi for their alleged coordination with states such as Turkey and Qatar, which are affiliated to the international Muslim Brotherhood movement, without regard for diplomatic rules. She has warned that Ghannouchi intends to "turn the parliament into a tool to implement an Islamist agenda in the Arab Maghreb", adding that "the parliament has become a private and personal farm for the 'Sheikh of the Brotherhood'".

Observers noted that Moussi has managed to shed light on Ghannouchi's agenda, which other political figures are often reluctant to confront for fear of losing Ennahda's support in Parliament.

The Libyan and Turkish media also reported a telephone conversation between Ghannouchi and Khalid al-Mishri, chairman of the Libyan High Council of State, on 5 May. In that call, the two Islamist leaders stressed "the need to activate the institutions of the Maghreb to serve the peoples of the region, (...) and the importance of deepening cooperation between them, to face common challenges," according to a statement issued by the Libyan High Council.

A few days before calling Mishri, Ghannouchi held another call with Erdogan. Many Tunisians and Libyans have criticized the lack of transparency about these interactions, which coincide with the military escalation in Western Libya.

Former Libyan ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Muhammed Saeed Al-Qashshat, wrote on his official Facebook page that Ghannouchi was guilty of conspiring with the Turkish president against Libya.

The controversy over Ghannouchi's contacts could fuel further resentment in Tunisia and Libya in the coming days because of its political, security and military implications.