Tunisia’s leading Islamist Ennahda party is set to pick a hardliner replacement for outgoing moderate Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali (pictured) after he declined to head the country’s next government, a party official said on Thursday.
Tunisia’s main Islamist Ennahda party will pick a hardliner to replace moderate outgoing Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali after he declined to head the next government, a party official said on Thursday.
Jebali, who is secretary-general of Ennahda, resigned on Tuesday after his plan for an apolitical technocrat cabinet to prepare for elections collapsed, largely because of opposition from within his own party and its leader, Rached Ghannouchi.
“Jebali declined to accept nomination (for next prime minister),” Ennahda said. “A new candidate will be presented to the president of the republic this week.”
The assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid on Feb. 6 plunged Tunisia into its worst political crisis in the two years since a revolt toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired Arabs elsewhere to rebel against autocratic rulers.
In Pictures: Unrest at opposition leader's funeral
Tunisian security forces arrested a young man near the cemetery where assassinated opposition leader Chokri Belaid was buried on Friday. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
At least 40,000 people turned out for Belaid’s funeral. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Thousands of mourners cried out “Allah Akbar” (“God is great”) during the ceremony and sang Tunisia’s national anthem. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Breaking with Muslim tradition, hundreds of women entered the cemetery to pay homage to Belaid, who was a staunch defender of women’s rights. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
The funeral scene was chaotic, with a helicopter constantly circling overhead. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Black smoke caused by tear gas billowed from a building near the cemetery’s entrance. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Crowds of people fled as police fired tear gas after thugs set fire to cars and threw stones at security forces. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
A Tunisian man held up a tear gas canister. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Interior ministry spokesperson Khaled Tarrouche said that at least 132 people had been arrested after clashes broke out between protesters and security forces near the cemetery and in downtown Tunis. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Security forces finally regained control of the situation in the afternoon, but dozens of cars were destroyed near the cemetery. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
The secular leftist’s killing sent protesters flooding into the streets, exposing the deep rifts between Tunisia’s empowered Islamists and their liberal and secular-minded opponents.
Jebali had proposed forming technocrat cabinet to replace his Ennahda-led coalition, which included two secular parties, to spare the North African nation’s nascent democracy and its struggling tourism-dependent economy from further strife.
But Ghannouchi blocked the moderate premier’s plan and a senior Ennahda official told Reuters that the next prime minister would come from the party’s hardline wing, which opposes any role for politicians linked with the Ben Ali era.
The official listed outgoing Justice Minister Nourredine Bouheiri, Health Minister Abdellatif Mekki, Agriculture Minister Mohammed Ben Salem, Interior Minister Ali Larayedh and Transport Minister Abdelkarim Harouni as the possible nominees.
“Ennahda will hold a meeting tonight to choose a candidate. The next prime minister will be one of the names on this list,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
Ennahda won Tunisia’s first free election in October 2011 and controls 89 seats in the 217-member National Constituent Assembly assigned the task of drafting a new constitution.
Tunisian secular president, Moncef Marzouki, will ask the next prime minister to form his government within two weeks.
Ghannouchi has previously said it is vital that Islamists and secular parties share power now and in the future, and that his party was willing to compromise over control of important ministries such as foreign affairs, justice and interior.
Marzouki’s secular Congress for the Republic party (CPR), which has 29 assembly seats and was part of Jebali’s coalition, said on Thursday it was ready to join the next one.
“Our party will take part in the new government and will have an active role to play,” the CPR’s spokesman, Hedi Ben Abbes, said after a meeting with Marzouki.
Together, Ennahda and CPR would have 118 seats, wielding a majority in the assembly. It is not clear whether other secular parties would join such a coalition, particularly in the charged political atmosphere following Belaid’s assassination.
Ennahda’s own unity might also come under strain following the very public differences that have emerged between Ghannouchi and Jebali, who served as prime minister for 14 months.
Tunisia began a transition to democracy after Ben Ali’s peaceful overthrow in January 2011, holding elections for the National Constituent Assembly and then forging a deal under which Ennahda agreed to share power with its secular rivals.
But disputes have delayed the constitution, and grievances over unemployment and poverty have led to frequent unrest.
“Today I cannot send a message of reassurance to investors abroad because local investors in Tunisia are not reassured and the outlook is not entirely clear,” Wided Bouchamaoui, president of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said on Wednesday.
Negotiations on a $1.78 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund cannot be concluded amid the latest uncertainty.
Standard and Poor’s lowered its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating on Tunisia on Tuesday, citing “a risk that the political situation could deteriorate further amid a worsening fiscal, external and economic outlook”.
Date created : 2013-02-21