Tunisia president’s top aide quits over ‘fundamental differences’

Nadia Akacha has been described as President Saied’s closest and most trusted adviser.

Tunisia's President Kais Saied gives a speech at the government's swearing-in ceremony at the Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis, Tunisia
A political source told Reuters that Akacha had disagreed with Saied's support for an Interior Ministry decision to force six senior security officials, including a former intelligence chief, to retire [File: Fethi Belaid/Reuters]

Tunisia’s chief of staff and closest adviser to the country’s president, Nadia Akacha, has resigned because of “fundamental differences in opinion” over the country’s interests, she has announced on social media.

“I decided to resign after two years … I am faced with fundamental differences in opinion regarding [Tunisia’s] best interests and I think it is my duty to withdraw,” she wrote on Monday on her Facebook page, without elaborating.

There was no immediate comment or official confirmation of her resignation from the presidential palace.

A political source told the Reuters news agency that Akacha had disagreed with Saied’s support for a Ministry of the Interior decision to force six senior security officials, including a former intelligence chief, to retire.

Akacha had been described by Tunisian government officials, foreign diplomats and former presidential office staff as Saied’s closest and most trusted adviser, and the conduit for almost all interactions with him.

She has been on Saied’s side since he rose to office in 2019 as well as when he seized governing powers in late July in what opponents have described as “a coup against the constitution”.

He has denied the coup allegations and promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

Several other senior advisers had also quit working for Saied since his election and were not all replaced.

Saied’s seizure of broad powers has cast Tunisia’s decade-old democratic system into doubt and hindered its quest for an international rescue plan for public finances.

The president has initiated an online public consultation before drafting a new constitution that he said will be put to a referendum, but has not brought major political or civil society players into the process.

Though his actions appeared to have broad support at first among Tunisians weary of economic stagnation and political paralysis, political leaders have voiced increasing opposition and civil society groups have also warned of a return to authoritarianism.

Major Western donors meanwhile say in private that Saied is unlikely to secure international help needed to finance the budget and debt repayments without a more inclusive political approach or broad agreement on economic reforms.

Tunisia’s economy remains mired by the pandemic and the government Saied appointed in September has announced an unpopular budget for 2022.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies