Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisia: Nation Seeks Path to Unity

Tunis — The killing of opposition leader Chokri Belaid has triggered the greatest political crisis in the country since the revolution.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali on Saturday (February 9th) threatened to quit, warning of chaos unless a new government were formed.

Jebali said he would resign within days if key ministries held by fellow Islamists were not filled by non-partisan technocrats, TAP reported.

His comments came as several thousand supporters of his moderate Islamist Ennahda party took to the streets to oppose his plans for the new Tunisia cabinet.

Jebali decided to make the change after the killing of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid on Wednesday sparked widespread unrest.

"I had to take the decision without consulting the political parties, the day of the assassination, fearing that the country would slide into chaos," Jebali told France 24.

"If the initiative fails, what would you suggest to the Tunisian people, what alternative? The law of the jungle?" Jebali asked.

In the days since Belaid was gunned down outside his Tunis home, the country has witnessed clashes between police and opposition supporters, as well as attacks on Ennahda offices.

Iyadh Ben Achour, the former president of the High Authority for the Achievement of the Objectives of the Revolution, confirmed that Jebali was empowered to make the change without resorting to the Constituent Assembly.

"Article 17 of the Law on the provisional organisation of public powers authorises the prime minister to reshuffle," Ben Achour said.

Jebali's proposal "is the ideal solution to overcome the political crisis in Tunisia, as it will ensure the impartiality of the ministries of Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs", opposition politician Maya Jribi said.

"It will also ensure independent and impartial elections," the secretary general of the Republican Party added.

President Moncef Marzouki, who called a national day of mourning for the slain Unified Democratic Patriots Party (PPDU) leader, also expressed support for the formation of a national unity government, spokesman Adnan Manser said.

The Ennahda Movement, however, has rejected the proposal.

"The prime minister did not consult with the rest of the political parties," Ennahda official Habib Ellouz said.

Fugitive salafist Abou Iyadh, who heads the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia and is accused of organising the September attack on the US embassy in Tunis, also warned Ennahda that compromising with secular parties amounted to "political suicide", AFP reported.

Saturday's rally by Ennahda supporters on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis was on a far smaller scale than anti-government rallies held in the wake of Belaid's murder.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of people thronged the streets of the capital as Belaid's coffin was carried from Djebel Jelloud to the El-Jellaz cemetery.

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