Tunisian President’s party quits government
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki’s secular party withdrew yesterday from an Islamist-led government already reeling from last week’s assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid.
Belaid’s killing on Wednesday – Tunisia’s first such political assassination in decades – has thrown the government and the country into turmoil, widening rifts between the dominant Islamist Ennahda party and its secular-minded foes.
“We have been saying for a week that if the foreign and justice ministers were not changed, we would withdraw from the government,” Samir Ben Amor, an official of Marzouki’s Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), said. The CPR has criticised the performance of the two ministers, one of whom, Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem, is the son-in-law of Ennahda party leader Rachid Ghannouchi.
Ben Amor said the CPR’s withdrawal was unconnected to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s decision, announced after Belaid was killed, to form a non-partisan government of technocrats to run the country until elections can be held later in the year.
Senior politicians in Ennahda, as well as in its two non-Islamist coalition partners, had criticised Jebali’s proposal, saying he had failed to consult them first.
Jebali said on Saturday he would unveil his new Cabinet this week, but would resign if political parties did not support it.
A senior Ennahda official, who asked not to be named, said the National Constituent Assembly would have the final say, but added: “We see that it will be poss-ible to form a government of technocrats with political parties.”
Ben Amor said Marzouki’s CPR would formally submit the resign-ation of its three ministers to Jebali on Monday.
Political analyst Youssef Ouslati said the party was “trying to jump out of a sinking ship”, but that its decision had no great weight because Jebali was now the central player. He said that if political uncertainty continued, “the street will be the crucial element”.
Belaid’s funeral drew tens of thousands of mourners in Tunisia on Friday.