Tunisia has a new Caliph. The new Tunisian provisional constitution, named "Mini-Constitution," gave the new prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, leader of the Islamic Ennahda party, complete control of the country's institutions.
Members of Ennahda had originally agreed that the commission that was to prepare the Mini-Constitution would be headed by a member of the opposition, but when it came to appoint the commission's president, members of Ennahda disavowed their previous commitment and appointed instead Habib Khedher, a young lawyer and politician, currently a member of the central office of legal affairs in the Ennahda party.
In taking up his assignment, Kheder, displaying all his rhetorical and negotiating capabilities, managed to transform the post of prime minister into an omnipotent position, reducing at the same time the attributions of power of the Presidents of the Republic and of the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly to almost nothing. The Tunisian media outlet, Business News, writes that although Ennhada won a relative majority (not an absolute one) and was obliged to form a coalition with two left-leaning parties, no one stopped Ennahda's hegemonic lunge for power.
"[The two parties in the coalition] already signed this agreement. Did they really read it or were they too busy in dreaming they had reached the top of their glory? They have been woken up by the cry of outrage of their supporters but, at the moment the draft [of the mini-constitution] was made public, it was already too late. So, Hamadi Jebali will be the new super Prime Minister […]. And, similarly to a Caliph who replaces the old president-Caliph [Ben Ali], nothing can pass without the supervision of the prime minister. Thus, the new president, apart from some strictly ceremonial prerogatives, will not even be allowed to appoint the mufti of the republic without the previous consent of the prime minister or appoint military chiefs or representatives of diplomatic missions," Business News reported.
The new Tunisian prime minister will be able to institute, modify or suppress ministerial posts as he pleases, having only to "inform" the president. Likewise, the prime minister will be allowed to appoint or dismiss high officials in public enterprises, in the public administration and in the military. In case the president of the republic is momentarily incapacitated from carrying out his functions, it is the prime minister who will replace him for a period of up to three months, whereas if the prime minister had some impediment, the president of the republic should appoint a new candidate as presented by the majority party.
This imbalance of powers would have been even greater if Ennahda's proposal of adopting a "qualified" majority of two-thirds for a vote of no-confidence-in-the-government would have passed. Under the pressure of the civil society and of the Tunisian press, Ennahda had to backtrack, and now an absolute majority will be sufficient for a no-confidence vote.
There is no doubt that Ennahda came to power through a democratic process: according to observers, elections were transparent and fair. However, the Islamist party seems concerned that its electoral success might be confiscated by political gimmicks. The mini-constitution that has been approved is engineered in such a way as to ensure maximum powers to Ennahda and to shelter it from possible political attacks. The new mini-constitution, therefore, raises significant questions over Ennahda's democratic intent.