Friday, February 8, 2013

Tunisia Islamist party rejects govt dissolution

TUNIS, February 8, 2013 AP

The Islamist party dominating Tunisia's ruling coalition on Thursday rejected the initiative of its own prime minister to form a non-partisan technocratic government to resolve the political crisis brought on by the assassination of a prominent leftist politician.

The announcement by Ennahda throws into question efforts to resolve one of the worst crises Tunisia has faced since the revolution and suggests divisions not just between the government and opposition, but within the ruling party itself.

Chokri Belaid, a fierce government critic, was shot several times in his car just outside his home on Wednesday morning by unknown assailants. Demonstrations erupted around the country and were quelled by tear gas.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announced late Wednesday that he would dissolve the government and form a new one of technocrats to manage the country until elections a longstanding opposition demand that was widely welcomed.

The next day, however, the vice president of Ennahda, Abdel-Hamid Jalasi, said the party disagreed with the move, throwing the political future of the country into question once more.

Tunisia's Radio Mosaique meanwhile reported full-scale riots in the southern mining city of Gafsa, where Belaid's Popular Front coalition of leftist parties has a great deal of support.

Demonstrators marched through the city and threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas.

The capital Tunis, however, remained quiet amid cold weather and a heavy downpour.

Jalasi, according to Ennahda's website, said the country still needed political figures to run it and suggested returning to the long-running talks with other parties to expand the government. He added that the party was not informed of the prime minister's move before it happened.

Ennahda was long repressed by Tunisia's dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but after his overthrow in January 2011, the well-organised movement dominated subsequent elections and now rules in coalition with two secular parties.

Relations between the government and the opposition had deteriorated in recent months and talks over a government reshuffle had gone nowhere.

Meanwhile, critics like Belaid accused the government of employing thugs to attack meetings of the opposition.
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