Tunisia Islamists urge talks
08 August 2013, 11:26
Tunis - The Islamist party heading Tunisia's coalition said on
Wednesday it accepted a decision to suspend the work of the National
Constituent Assembly and urged talks to form a national unity government.
Ennahda party chief Rached Ghannouchi said he hoped the
ANC's suspension would have a beneficial outcome.
Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar said on Tuesday that the ANC would
stop work until the government and opposition opened negotiations to break the
political deadlock "in the service of Tunisia".
The north African country has been in almost continuous
political turmoil since the February assassination of opposition politician
Chokri Belaid. That was exacerbated by the murder on 25 July of another
opposition figure, Mohammed Brahimi.
A party statement signed by Ghannouchi said: "Despite
our formal and legal reservations about this initiative, we hope it will serve
as a catalyst for political adversaries to sit down at the negotiating
Ennahda said it hoped for "a consensus solution during
this sensitive time because of security problems and major economic
And it said the party supported "a national unity
government comprising all those political forces convinced of the need to let
the democratic process take its course" under the law.
Since the ANC's election in 2011, it has failed to hammer
out a consensus on the new constitution following a revolution that ousted
long-time president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
Moment of truth
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people poured onto the
streets of Tunis to demand the government's resignation.
Wednesday's papers said Ennahda and its detractors must
begin talks on ending the crisis gripping the nation before it is too late.
Le Quotidien, which is highly critical of Ennahda, said "everyone
is unanimous as to the seriousness of the situation" and urged the party
to make real concessions.
"The hour of compromise has come," it said.
Analysts say the moment of truth has also arrived.
"No party, including Ennahda, can ignore the position
of the UGTT [Tunisian General Labour Union]... Ennahda cannot carry on without
taking on board the fact that the [economic and social] forces in the country
do not agree with it," said political scientist Slaheddine Jourchi.
The powerful half million-strong UGTT has organised a
general strike to try to force the government's hand.
In addition to the political instability, Tunisian security
forces have lost 10 soldiers since 29 July and have intensified an operation to
hunt down Islamist militants holed up in the remote Mount Chaambi region along
the Algerian border.
Brahmi's murder, as well as that of Belaid, have been blamed
on radical Islamists, and the cabinet has been criticised for not doing enough
to prevent the killings.
Washington urged Tunisians to favour "dialogue and
peaceful means" for resolving disputes.
"Violence has no role in Tunisia's democratic
transition, and violence will only lead to more violence, not solutions,"
said US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki.
The opposition has refused talks with the government until
it steps down, while Ennahda has ruled out any dialogue conditional on its
Prime Minister Ali Larayedh has refused to quit, offering
instead to broaden the coalition.
Tuesday's suspension of the assembly's work throws into
question Larayedh's target of the ANC adopting a new constitution and electoral
law by 23 October ahead of a 17 December election.
The opposition has held nightly gatherings since Brahmi's
murder and has pledged to keep up the pressure during the four-day Muslim
holidays starting on Thursday to celebrate the end of the fasting month of