Magharebia (Washington DC)

25 February 2013

Tunisia: Larayedh to Form New Government

Tunis — Ennahda is tapping Tunisia's controversial interior minister to head up the next government.

Tunisia's ruling Islamist party on Friday (February 22nd) named Interior Minister Ali Larayedh as its candidate for the next prime minister.

"I feel the weight of this responsibility; I was nominated for this and I hope that I find acceptance among Tunisians, men and women," Larayedh said in his first speech after being nominated.

"I hope the government will be the government of all Tunisians, men and women, and receives the support of all," he added.

The new prime minister is expected to announce the composition of the new cabinet in the coming days, before submitting it to the Constituent Assembly for approval. The new government needs to secure an outright majority (109 votes), a number that is already available to Ennahda and its allies.

Outgoing Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali in his farewell speech apologised for not accepting the new assignment.

He pointed to the difficulty of his task as a result of the continued tug-of-war, and his attachment to the initiative he had put forward to compose a government of technocrats, an initiative that was opposed by Ennahda.

A number of opposition parties announced their refusal to support the new government if Jebali were not re-nominated. They also asked for the setting of elections, the elimination of violence and the dismantling of the Leagues for Protection of the Revolution.

Although Larayedh is a prominent leader in the Islamist Ennahda Movement, the opposition criticised his performance as interior minister.

They pointed to a number of security failures, including the attack on the US Embassy in Tunis, the violence in Siliana and the assassination of leftist leader Chokri Belaid.

But Congress for the Republic (CPR) leader Abdelwaheb Maatar, one of the pillars of the ruling troika, was more optimistic, saying: "Ali Larayedh's appointment is the right decision, as it falls under the logic of the change of government."

The third party of the ruling troika, Ettakatol, announced Saturday that they would decide whether to join the new government after meeting with Larayedh. The party had supported Hamadi Jebali's plan.

Meanwhile, some of the 3,000 or so Tunisians who rallied Saturday in Tunis to demand arrests in the Belaid killing took the opportunity to criticize the government change.

"We are here in the street to demand a faster probe to nab those who assassinated Chokri Belaid," said Naouel Bettayeb. "Unfortunately, the person we are asking was one reason for the growth of the phenomenon of political violence in Tunisia. Now, they promoted him from interior minister to prime minister."

"What cabinet change are they talking about? Larayedh was one of the reasons for the failure of the previous government," commented Mouldi Belhaj. "He is not able to move the country positively during this sensitive period."

Others, however, expressed their support for the new prime minister.

"Ali Larayedh is a leader and activist in the movement of Ennahda and made major efforts at the Ministry of Interior that prevented the introduction of the country into a cycle of violence," Ahmed Chebbi told Magharebia.

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