Magharebia (Washington DC)

28 October 2013

Tunisia Begins Government Overhaul

Tunis — After months of political paralysis, Tunisia is on the verge of forming a new, non-partisan government and completing its constitution.

A first meeting of the much-delayed national dialogue opened on Friday afternoon. The opposing factions met behind closed doors into the early hours of Saturday (October 26th).

"Today is an important deadline in the history of Tunisia," the head of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) said after the talks began.

"The whole world is waiting for us and looking carefully to see if we are going to succeed. Here, we are succeeding in reaching the formal session of the national dialogue," Houcine Abbassi added.

On Friday, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh sent a letter to the mediators in which he pledged to resign. After Larayedh said he would follow the mediators ' plan to end the country's months-long political impasse, the opposition Salvation Front decided to join the Tunisia national dialogue.

The UGTT, the Employers ' Organisation, the League for the Defence of Human Rights and the Bar Association last month offered up the plan to resolve the crisis triggered by the assassinations of opposition politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohammed Brahmi.

According to the mediators' roadmap, the national dialogue will lead to the formation of a caretaker cabinet of technocrats, as well as the adoption of a new constitution, electoral laws and a timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Tunisia's political crisis was exacerbated by the killing of nearly two dozen soldiers and security officials in sporadic terrorist attacks. The governing troika members, particularly Ennahda, have been accused of turning a blind eye to terror organisation Ansar al-Sharia.

In an encouraging sign, all the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) returned to work Saturday, and pledged to complete the democratic process and accelerate the writing of the constitution.

Tunisians, meanwhile, are struggling with their country's first exposure to terrorism. Many say they hope the national dialogue will bring much needed change.

"The country is in a security and economic crisis, and every new delay in the implementation of the roadmap will sink the country into a new crisis," Tunis shopkeeper Karim Sayyala told Magharebia.

Mongi Ben Omar, a teacher, agreed that the mediated agreement would improve conditions in the country.

"I think due to the street, trade unions, and security forces ' pressures, the implementation of the roadmap has become inevitable and this will ease people's anxiety a bit," he said.

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