Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisia: Local Turmoil Continues As Jebali Resigns

Tunis — Political squabbling is leaving Tunisia paralysed in the wake of the Chokri Belaid assassination.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned Tuesday (February 19th) after failing to win approval for a non-partisan government of technocrats.

"I promised and assured that, in the event that my initiative failed, I would resign as head of the government, and that is what I have done," Jebali said on national television.

"This is a big disappointment," AFP quoted Jebali as saying. "Our people are disillusioned by the political class. We must restore confidence."

One of his foremost demands was setting a date for the next election, he said. He would not accept a new term unless the government serves the interests of the people, keeps its distance from partisan debates and sets a date for the elections, he emphasised.

On Wednesday, President Moncef Marzouki held crisis talks with the country's political leaders in an effort to replace the premier. Marzouki met with Ennahda chief Rachid Ghannouchi as well as Republican Party leader Maya Jribi.

It is now up to the president to appoint a new head of government, according to constitutional law professor Sadiq Belaid.

"The candidate can be from parties present on the political scene or a personality from outside the National Constituent Assembly," he added, noting that Jebali's government would stay on temporarily as a caretaker.

Once a new prime minister is appointed, that person in turn will submit a list of proposed ministers.

The latest political impasse began when the assassination of leftist leader Chokri Belaid sparked widespread demonstrations against the Ennahda-led government. Jebali had proposed his technocratic cabinet as a way out of the crisis.

Meanwhile, Fathi Ayadi, head of Ennahda's Shura Council, said his party was "ready to compromise on the interior ministry in the event of receiving assurances from the parties for calm in the country".

Ayadi added that Ghannouchi proposed "a government that mixes political competencies with technocrats".

Iyed Dahmani, a member of the Constituent Assembly and representative of the opposition Republican Party said "We will support the next government, the caretaker government, even if we are not part of it, on the condition that it has a clear roadmap with nonpartisan people heading the ministries of sovereignty."

"Topping this list is the Ministry of Interior, so we can forge ahead with free and transparent elections," Dahmani continued.

Jebali resigned "in a responsible way and with a democratic civil sense, fulfilling a promise, and in response to a political conviction expressing a reading of, and respect for, the national interest", commented Sami Brahmi, a political expert.

"No matter how we disagree with you - and we already did - we can only express our respect and regard," Brahmi said, addressing the out-going prime minister. "You have shown with your resignation that Tunisia is able to overcome the pitfalls of the process of democratic transition in a peaceful, civil manner."

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