Thousands of Tunisians have rallied in support of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party as Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali threatened to resign if his proposal to appoint a nonpolitical cabinet of technocrats is rejected.
Prime Minister Jebali told the France-24 news channel Saturday that he will appoint a new Cabinet by the middle of next week, saying new, independent ministers are needed to save Tunisia from what he called "chaos." The prime minister said he is ready to resign if he does not receive broad political support.
The opposition has welcomed Jebali's proposal to appoint a cabinet of technocrats, but top members of the Ennahda party have rejected it. The plan was announced on Wednesday following the killing of prominent opposition leader Chokri Belaid outside his home by an unidentified gunman.
Ennahda supporters massed in the capital, Tunis, Saturday to denounce the plan. Demonstrators also shouted anti-French slogans to protest what they called "French interference," following comments by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls' warning of rising "Islamist fascism" following Belaid's murder. The Ennahda party said its demonstration was aimed at showing support for the constitutional assembly whose work on a new constitution was disrupted when Belaid was gunned down.
Belaid's family accuses the ruling party of being complicit in the murder, an accusation the party denies.
On Friday, police clashed with mourners during Belaid's funeral. Many of the mourners chanted anti-Islamist slogans and some held banners denouncing Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda party, as an "assassin." Clashes broke out during the funeral between police and protesters. The Interior Ministry says 132 people were arrested Friday.