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Tunisian PM resigns, hands power to caretaker government


Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh announced his resignation on Thursday, paving the way for a caretaker government to take power and supervise new elections later this year as agreed with the opposition.


"This afternoon, I will present the government's resignation to the president," Larayedh announced in a televised address.

Larayedh's departure comes as part of an agreement with the opposition to put the democratic transition back on track after the assassination of opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi by suspected Islamist militants last year sparked a new round of anti-government protests.

The premier’s resignation and the dissolution of his government is a defeat for his moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which ruled in coalition with two secular parties and has struggled to guide the country through its perilous transition to democracy.

Mehdi Jomaa, an engineer and the former industry minister, has been selected to replace Larayedh and is expected to present his new cabinet later in the day.

Several cities around the North African nation of 10 million people have been wracked by fresh protests this week over continuing high inflation, a lack of jobs and new taxes as the government struggles with an ongoing fiscal crisis.

In one of his final statements, Larayedh said the taxes on transportation that sparked the demonstrations had been suspended.

Ends political standoff

“As we promised, once the vision was clear and the country was on the right track, I presented my resignation to President Moncef Marzouki,” Larayedh told reporters.

He lauded the Constitutional Assembly – which is comprised of two judges, a lawyer, a university professor and finance and IT experts – for appointing a new commission to oversee elections. The assembly will vote later on Thursday to decide who will preside over the election commission, with state news agencies reporting that professor Chafik Sarsar is among the favourites.

Ennahda’s decision to step down ended a months-long political standoff. Amid a mounting economic crisis, social upheaval and the assassination of two left-wing politicians, the opposition had demanded that a caretaker government oversee new elections.

Ennahda Islamists dominated the 2011 elections but they have since seen their popularity diminish. Thousands took to the streets in late August to demand Ennahda's departure.

Polls, however, still show Ennahda as one of the most powerful parties in the country.

Tunisia’s revolution inspired similar uprisings across the Arab world, but in the aftermath its transition to democracy has faltered.

The country has seen a rise in extremism and terrorist attacks blamed on shadowy Islamist groups and has accused "terrorists" of assassinating secular opposition leaders.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)


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