Hamma Hammami, spokesman of the leftist Popular Front (the fourth body in the parliament) talks to Correspondents about what he believes to be a failure on the government’s part in achieving developmental and labour demands.

Hamma Hammami, you once described Prime Minister Habib Essid as an employee of the president. Can you explain that statement?

Hamma Hammami, spokesman of the leftist Popular Front (the fourth body in the parliament) talks to Correspondents about what he believes to be a failure on the government’s part in achieving developmental and labour demands.

Hamma Hammami, you once described Prime Minister Habib Essid as an employee of the president. Can you explain that statement?

I, indeed, said the prime minister is an employee of the president since all important decisions are made at Carthage Presidential Palace. Forming the government, along with regulating governmental alliances, was established by orders of the presidential palace. Habib Essid did not choose to have an alliance between Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda or the Quadruple Alliance. It was dictated by the current President Beji Caid Essebsi. The recent ministerial changes were also dictated as several new ministers used to be advisers at the presidential palace. Habib Essid is not involved in public life, as if he is not the prime minister; he is functioning as a first minister as it was the case under ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

This government does not have any plan or project for the country’s future. It is merely a caretaker government, which has failed on all levels. The growth rate has not exceeded 0.3, which reflects the government’s failure to meet the minimum demands of Tunisians.

Do you have any comments on the prime minister’s critical health or the fact that some people are demanding his replacement?

I wish Habib Essid a speedy recovery, but I do not actually have an accurate idea about the nature of his illness and whether it will stop him from performing his duties. We do not have a personal problem with Habib Essid; we only disapprove of the failure and inefficiency of his government. As for his replacement, we have an alternate plan rather than an alternate person – whoever is going to rule the coalition government will not be able to solve its problems since this coalition lacks any agenda or vision.

What does the Popular Front suggest for development and employment issues in this critical and difficult status in the Tunisia’s economy?

We met the prime minister recently and provided him with concrete alternatives, stressing that the country is undergoing some exceptional circumstances, which require exceptionally fast solutions. The government always complains about the lack of financial resources to solve the employment problem, but we believe, as we said to the prime minister, that they are not searching for the financial backup in the right place.

And where is that right place?

We provided the prime minister with four different means that would generate significant financial resources. The first means includes imposing a circumstantial special tax on huge revenues. The second includes suspending the payment of debts for three years to be used in investment. This year, Tunisia is required to pay 5.3 billion dinars (US $ 2.6 billion) in debt, which is the same amount allocated for development. Next year, Tunisia has to pay 7 billion (US $ 3.4 billion) dinars, which represents a quarter of this year’s budget. The World Bank wonders how Tunisia will get the money. Thus, our country is entitled to ask for the suspension of debts to use the money to invest in productive projects that would produce revenues and create a source to pay the country’s debts if such debts were not due to corruption.

Our third proposal includes resolving the issue of confiscated properties in a legal, fair, and transparent way. We all know that these properties are a source of extortion and betting.

The fourth point is to economize the state’s expenses. We know that there is corruption in many ministries and departments including the administrative cars file. We suggested to the prime minister to fight corruption that consumes three billion dinars (US $1.5 billion), which is more than half of this year’s finances allocated for development. We also suggested fighting tax evasion and smuggling in addition to considering a parallel economy, which constitutes nearly 50% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

What was the prime minister’s answer to such proposals?

He said these suggestions cannot be applied immediately. However, we assured him that they were reasonable proposals that should be applied immediately otherwise the situation will worsen and the country will be more vulnerable. In other words, we told the government that these measures are urgent and require a political will and a strong country that seriously considers the needs of its citizens, who have lost their ability to wait, which was evident by the recent events witnessed by some poor cities in the past couple of months.

Did the government not accuse the Popular Front of being responsible for protests aimed at creating new circumstances for a second revolution?

Such accusations were made by the president, Ennahda leaders and several government officials. We believe these accusations are an attempt to cover up the failure of the ruling coalition to provide a decent life to Tunisian citizens. This led to the deterioration of social conditions. Instead of taking responsibility, handling problems and admitting failure, this coalition is looking for a scapegoat to blame.

The Popular Front supported and will continue to support social movements. In fact, poverty, unemployment and marginalization are the elements that actually incite protests against the failure of the coalition to achieve progress in development an to improve the conditions of such social groups.

How do you comment on the Popular Front being accused of inciting violence to feed the protests?

Tunisians are fully aware of who practices violence or incites it. Smuggling groups, for example, affiliated with some political groups committed acts of sabotage and violence to distort the protests and find an excuse or a pretext to accuse the Popular Front. There are some groups that steal and loot, but it is normal to have such groups that take advantage when there are social struggles.

The Popular Front is the political party most keen on protecting Tunisia’s security and stability. We support social movements in a peaceful and civilized framework, since we believe that this is the least we can do as a main party in the Tunisian opposition.

Some accuse you and The Tunisian General Labour Union (TGL) of dominating the Popular Front. Does this mean that democratic governance is absent from the Front?

This is one rumour that aims at spreading gossip within the Popular Front. Some parties do not want the Front to stay united.  The TGL, and all other parties, do not control the Front and the best evidence for that is that all decisions are taken by consensus and a small party within the Front can disrupt decision making if there has been no consensus.

The Front does not have a leader in the partisan sense. The official spokesperson’s responsibility is to encourage teamwork since all important discussions are made within the Board of Trustees. As for the devolution of power, parliamentary term will be controlled for all new responsibilities in the new structure.

Why did you issue a recent statement about your wealth being decent?

I submitted an account before the Court of Audit. I am not legally bound to do so as the current law only applies to government officials, including those assigned at public organizations, but I did it for political and moral reasons.

A huge campaign has been directed against me and the Popular Front over Facebook pages affiliated with Ennahda and the Congress for The Republic Party, in an attempt to accuse me of corruption. Therefore, I wanted to refute such accusations.

What evidence do you have to state that the assassination of leftists Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi were state crimes?

We believe that their assassinations were a state crime since there is no political will to find the truth – the reason is this alliance between Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda.

Ennahda, considering its political and moral responsibility for creating a climate which allowed for the spread of terrorism between 2012 and 2013, does not want to investigate to find the truth, especially since their Secretary General Ali Arid is under legal liability.

As for Nidaa Tounes, Beji Caid Essebsi promised to investigate the truth, but he retreated from that promise to maintain the alliance with Ennahda.

The prosecution and the Court of Cassation said the investigating officer in Chokri’s case only focused on who committed the assassination rather than who planned and ordered its execution. The Court of Cassation was concerned of the involved parties in planning execution and, hence, tasked the investigating officer with identifying these parties. The result was the dismantlement of the case. The defendants we have in court are accused of implementation, but the investigating officer was not able to identify the mastering parties of the assassination. Additionally, several confusing elements affected the case. The car which was used for the assassination was seized, but the car and all performed examinations disappeared. The court requested the results of these examinations on January 15, but they have not been found yet.

New information about Mohamed Brahmi’s case were provided. As it turns out, not only one letter was sent from the US intelligence warning against the assassination, there was another hidden one sent on June 2013 informing the Ministry of Interior that the US is sure the assassination will take place and that it is willing to help the Tunisian authorities. However, the letter has disappeared.

All such factors lead us to believe that there is no political or judicial will to find the truth.

Do you believe that a strike on Libya is imminent or is this an exaggeration?

I think that we have to wait. There is an exaggerated propaganda in Tunisia, as if the war against Libya will be launched tomorrow. However, the facts indicate the need to wait since the United States called upon the Libyans to strengthen their governmental devices and Germany has reservations about direct military interventions. Italy and France, nevertheless, are promoting the war since they are the only parties with direct interests in Libya.

Why do you reject any military intervention in Libya despite the expansion of ISIS there?

We are against military intervention since the current situation in Libya is caused by the spread of terrorism, which transformed it into a regional and international center for terrorism.

Western powers destroyed Libya and then left it just like they left Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. In other words, military intervention will not stop terrorism; it will rather increase it. The sole purpose of these western powers is to seize Libya’s oil and gas.

How could they talk about combating terrorism when they let oil carriers take oil from Sirte, which is controlled by ISIS? How are weapons smuggled to ISIS? Why don’t they put pressure on Turkey and Qatar, which are known to support terrorism and terrorist groups in the region?