Magharebia (Washington DC)

20 August 2013

Tunisia Pursues Crisis Talks

E Najjar — Politicians in Tunisia continued crisis talks on Monday (August 19th) as leaders from the ruling Islamist party and the opposition sought a way out of the impasse sparked by the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi.

Ennahda chief Rachid Ghannouchi met with the head of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) on Monday but the meeting failed to produce progress, AFP reported.

The leader of the trade union, which is playing a mediating role, was due to present the Islamists' proposals to the opposition on Tuesday. The UGTT and Ennahda will meet again on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Ennahda revealed on Sunday that Ghannouchi met the chief of opposition party Nidaa Tounes, ex-premier Beji Caid Essebsi, while on a European tour last week.

Few details of the meeting emerged, but Ennahda's decision-making body said it endorsed the position of Ghannouchi, who has proposed a broad-based national unity government while rejecting opposition calls for the formation of a technocrat administration.

Ghannouchi has stressed the need to keep the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), saying that their "mistakes in government don't justify the suspension of dialogue and boycotting".

"We won't allow anyone to divide Tunisians, and we won't allow the insurrectionists to impose their agenda on us and our people," the Ennahda chief said last Thursday.

He also stressed the need for the ANC "to resume its work as soon as possible after its sessions were suspended a week ago". However, he said "it needs to put forward a clear agenda."

"The Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) must be formed within one week after ANC resumes its work so the constitution and election law can be approved before the end of September," Ghannouchi said.

"The constitutional tasks of the ANC must be completed by October 23rd," he continued. "We also need to agree on holding the next election before this year's end, and to form a national unity government from all political forces that are convinced of the need to complete the transition in the framework of law governing public authorities."

Ghannouchi urged Tunisians to avoid the Egyptian scenario, adding "mistakes in government don't justify doubts about the serious process or calls to cancel everything and start from scratch."

"There is delay in writing the constitution, and in transitional justice," Ghannouchi admitted. "There is also dereliction on the part of government in certain files, especially the businesspeople who are banned from travelling and rise of prices."

"There are also sharp criticisms of the performance of judiciary, especially in dealing with the attack on the US embassy," he added. "We admit that and do our best to reform."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh on Thursday confirmed during a meeting with members of the Initiative to Protect Tunisia's Democratic Path that he was "prepared to engage in dialogue over a range of important issues, the most prominent of which is the nature of next government".

"The head of government believes the proposal to form a caretaker government may make it unable to take serious decisions about the country, such as terrorism," said Slaheddine Jourchi, a member of the initiative.

Meanwhile, Tunisians have their own opinions about reaching consensus among parties.

"We've become fed up with the selfishness of those politicians and their love for power which has affected the country's public life and economy," Lobna Gabsi, an employee at a public sector company, told Magharebia. "Tunisia is no longer the secure country that everyone loves because of these conflicts among those politicians."

In his turn, Salim Othman said, "Dialogue is the only way to get Tunisia out of this bottleneck which was brought about by all political parties. All parties must make concessions so we can make it to the shore of safety and avoid Egyptians' fate."

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