President’s son destroying ruling party, says Tunisian premier

Critics of Hafez say he seeks to exploit his family’s influence to control the country

Tunis: Tunisian Prime Minister Yousuf Shahed said on Tuesday that the president’s son had destroyed the ruling Nidaa Tunis party and that the crisis in the party has affected state institutions.

The president’s son, Hafedh Qaid Al Sebsi, who is the leader of Nidaa Tunis, had called for the prime minister’s dismissal because of his government’s failure to revive the economy.

But the moderate Islamist party Al Nahda refused to accept this change and said the exit of the prime minister would hit stability at a time when the country needed economic reforms.

This is the first public criticism by Shahed against the president’s son, whose opponents accuse him of seeking to exploit his family influence to control the country.

The president’s son rejected the criticism and said he is exercising his political rights.

“Hafez Qaid Al Sebsi (has) destroyed the party and the ruling party crisis has affected the state institutions; it is time to reform the party,” Shahed said in a speech.

Nidaa Tunis lost municipal elections this month, coming second after Al Nahda.

The North African country has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali in 2011 without triggering violent upheaval, as happened in Syria and Libya.

But since 2011, nine cabinets have failed to resolve Tunisia’s economic problems, which include high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, which have kept the country afloat.

Seven prime ministers have failed to fix a sluggish economy.

Turmoil and militant attacks have deterred investors and tourists, eroding living standards of ordinary people and causing an increase in unemployment.

Annual inflation hit a record high of 7.7 per cent in April as the dinar currency tanked, making food imports more expensive.

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