Anti-government protest rallies thousands in Tunisia
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Tens of thousands of people crowded the streets of Tunisia on Tuesday evening, calling for the resignation of the Islamist-led coalition government amid a political stalemate among lawmakers in charge of forging a new constitution.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched peacefully in the Tunisian capital on Tuesday evening demanding the resignation of the Islamist-led coalition government as the political crisis in the north African country grew.
Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Ennahda party said Wednesday it accepted the suspension of the North African country’s National Constituent Assembly and urged talks with its rivals on a national unity government.
“Despite our formal and legal reservations about this initiative, we hope it will serve as a catalyst for political adversaries to sit down at the negotiating table,” a party statement said.
Ennahda said it hoped the assembly’s suspension would lead to “the formation of a government of national unity”.
Around 40,000 people took to the streets of Tunis, according to police, while opposition leaders put the protest figures between 100,000 and 200,000.
They waved Tunisian flags and chanted slogans against the moderate Islamist movement Ennahda that heads a three-part government coalition.
The protesters were largely middle-class Tunisians from the capital, according to Eileen Byrne, Sunday Times correspondent.
“When I ask people why they come to demonstrate, why they don’t like this Islamist-led coalition government, they talk about the economic situation,” Byrne told FRANCE 24 by telephone from Tunis. “They say the middle classes have seen their standard of living erode.”
The country has been wracked by political unrest since the July 25 murder of opposition lawmaker Mohamed Brahmi. Tuesday's protests marked the biggest anti-government demonstration since the assassination.
Brahmi's murder, as well as that of another opposition politician, Chokri Belaid, have been blamed on radical Islamists, with the Ennahda-led cabinet criticised for not doing enough to prevent them.
“[Protesters] are not happy with religious ideology in government, they are not happy with the rise of fringe extremism which has led to the killing of two politicians,” Byrne said.
The protest on Tuesday marked the six-month anniversary of the assassination of the left-wing leader Belaid.
“They don’t feel confident that the coalition that is led by the Islamists will assure free and fair elections, although the last elections in 2011 were generally free and fair, but they don’t have confidence that success can be repeated,” she added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) – a body elected in 2011 to forge consensus on drafting a new constitution – was suspended.
The political impasse seemed likely to continue, with the political opposition refusing to hold talks with the government until it steps down while Ennahda has ruled out any dialogue intended to dismantle its authority.
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