News / Middle East

Tunisia's Ruling Islamist Party, Opposition Start Crisis Talks

Supporters of ruling Islamist Ennahda party demonstrate in condemnation of assassination of six Tunisian policemen, Tunis, Oct.24, 2013.
Supporters of ruling Islamist Ennahda party demonstrate in condemnation of assassination of six Tunisian policemen, Tunis, Oct.24, 2013.
Reuters
— Tunisia's ruling Islamist party and the opposition began talks on Friday to form a caretaker government and prepare for elections under an agreement to end months of unrest in the country that inspired the “Arab Spring” revolts.
 
The North African nation has been in turmoil since July when the assassination of an opposition leader ignited anti-government protests that threatened to derail a democratic transition once seen as a model for the region.
 
Moderate Islamist party Ennahda has agreed its government will resign after three weeks of talks to appoint a non-partisan cabinet to govern until elections. The two sides will also decide on a vote date and appoint an electoral commission.
 
“The train out of this crisis is on the tracks, and we are now on the way to finishing our transition to elections,” Ennahda chairman Rached Ghannouchi told reporters.
 
Tunisia's post-revolt path has been less violent than those of its neighbors: Egypt's military ousted an elected Islamist leader and Libya's fragile government is powerless against former militiamen who rebelled against Moammar Gadhafi.
 
But since the fall of its autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has seen a growing split between Islamists and their opponents over the place of Islam in one of the Muslim world's most secular countries.
 
The assassination of two opposition leaders by Islamist militant gunmen this year enraged government critics who blamed Ennahda for being too lenient on hardliners.
 
Once suppressed under Ben Ali, conservative Salafists have become more influential in spreading their hardline message in a state based on strict Islamic law. For many secular Tunisians that threatens liberal education and women's rights.
 
The deaths of seven Tunisian policemen on Wednesday in clashes with Islamist militants inflamed tensions and forced a brief postponement of negotiations scheduled for that day.
 
Deep distrust
 
Deep distrust between Ennahda and the opposition was clear in the protracted wrangling before the talks, and that could still upset negotiations.
 
Fearing the Islamists want to cling to power, opposition leaders demanded a written commitment from Prime Minister Ali Larayedh that his ruling party would resign at the end of the three weeks of talks.
 
Ennahda has agreed to step down, but Islamists want to see work on the country's new constitution finished, the appointment of an electoral committee to oversee a vote and a clear date set for elections.
 
After the July murder, opposition members of a national assembly finishing the new constitution walked out in protest. Weeks later the assembly was suspended.
 
“This is the end of the crisis," said Nejib Chebbi, an opposition leader. "The assembly members should be able to return tomorrow or Monday to finish their work on the constitution.”
 
Talks will likely first name a transition prime minister to lead the non-partisan government. Most of the candidates are economists and former central bank officials.
 
Deciding the date of the election will be more complicated. Ennahda has said elections will happen in six months, but the opposition may push for a later date to give its leaders more time to prepare.
 
Ennahda won 40 percent of the seats in Tunisia's first post-Ben Ali vote to elect the assembly, and it has shared power in a coalition with two smaller secular parties as part of an initial transitional agreement.
 
During its term in power its popularity has slipped, Tunisians say, with many blaming its government for failing to create jobs and keep living costs under control.
 
But the Islamist party, whose leaders spent years in exile or in prison under Ben Ali, is still the most well-organized political movement in Tunisia. Its main rival is Nida Tounes whose ranks include former Ben Ali officials.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid