Last Friday, an extremely heated debate was held over the adoption of some new articles added by the government to the draft budget law of 2019. Namely, the new Finance Act. The Speaker of the Assembly of People’s Representatives, Mohamed Ennaceur, spoke.
He took note of “the tension in the air, the clearly perceptible hostility and the violent discourse” that marked the plenary session. “We keep the same distance to all MPs and all parliamentary groups. Our role is to facilitate consensus and make it possible. We are not involved in the ongoing conflict on the political scene,” he said.
The genesis of the controversy
The controversy stems from an earlier meeting about the articles of the Finance Act. Some of the new articles needed provisions added, for clarification. Therefore, Ennaceur held a meeting to discuss what provisions should be added. Some proposed ideas were accepted. Some were not.
Explaining the genesis of the controversy, Mohamed Ennaceur said:
“After two hours of debate, the meeting concluded on a disagreement about the issue of supermarkets whose bill was put to the vote and approved by a majority of 88 voice. It was therefore possible to proceed to the examination of the following text. But the tense situation then prevailing in the hemicycle was such that many deputies wanted to speak. The bottom line is that everyone spoke, which was very useful.”
Ennaceur saw the meeting with rose colored glasses
Ennaceur defends himself against the idea that he used the meeting to garner political dividends. He said that he assumes his responsibilities and experiences “a great personal satisfaction that everyone has expressed himself, received the messages conveyed and that we reached a consensus.”
“This honors me,” he said, because “this is essential, especially since we have managed to change the course of things.”
“I am here to fulfill the duty that is mine, and being outside of political conflicts, I do not intend at all to reap political dividends.” Finally, he claimed that he is not a candidate for anything, being “anxious to invest myself in my duty in these historical circumstances through which the country passes.”
A less than rosy reality
It should be recalled, however, that the session then experienced a great disturbance and the tone rose a notch. An article was adopted relating to the postponement of the increase the tax on certain companies. Companies such as supermarkets, car import, and franchise companies would have a tax increase from 25 percent to 35 percent beginning in January 2020. This is compared with January 2019 in the first version.
This article was initially adopted by 88 votes in favor, 5 abstentions and 31 votes against, before being submitted a second time to the vote after a heated debate. Deputies have criticized both its content and the manner in which Finance Minister, Ridha Chalgoum, imposed it.
Elected officials have accused the government of colluding with certain economic lobbies, in anticipation of the next election campaign.
The proposal for the postponement, which further delayed the meeting, has particularly aroused a strong reaction from elected representatives of the popular front.
The chairman of the finance commission and member of this bloc, Mongi Rahoui, wondered about the absence of an explanation. He wanted to know the reasons for the government’s decision to postpone the increase in the tax on revenues of large companies. Other deputies mentioned the pressure exerted by the businessmen on the deputies to obtain the cancellation of this increase