Ennahda reject Cabinet dissolution amid nationwide protests
LONDON/TUNIS, Asharq Al-Awsat—The political situation in Tunisia remains uncertain in the wake of Wednesday’s assassination of left-wing political leader Chokri Belaid. Belaid’s killing sparked huge nation-wide protests, with Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announcing the dissolution of his Islamist-led government coalition to be replaced by non-partisan technocrats until elections can be held as soon as possible.
However Jebali’s own party, the ruling Ennahda movement, rejected the prime minister’s move to dismiss the government on Thursday. Ennahda Vice-President Abdelhamid Jelassi was quoted by Reuters affirming that Jebali “did not ask the opinion of his party.” He added, “We in Ennahda believe Tunisia needs a political government now.”
In a televised address following Belaid’s killing and the subsequent nation-wide unrest, Prime Minister Jebali said, “After the failure of negotiations between parties on a cabinet reshuffle, I have decided to form a small technocrat government.” He added that the new cabinet’s mandate will be “limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held in the shortest possible time.”
The largest street protests since the Tunisian revolution two years ago broke out across the country in the wake of Belaid’s killing, with protesters clashing with police in the capital, Tunis. Belaid, leader of the Unified Democratic Nationalist party, spoke for many who fear religious radicals coming to power and stifling political and social freedoms in Tunisia. He was shot dead outside his home in Tunis on Wednesday morning by a man who fled on a motorcycle. He was pronounced dead in hospital shortly afterwards.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday, Ennahda party leader Rachid Ghannouchi asserted that those behind this attack “have an interest in thwarting the Tunisian revolution,” describing them as “the enemies of Tunisia.”
He added, “The aim of this [attack] is to confuse Tunisia’s march towards democracy, and block any efforts to develop the nation, which primarily relies on tourism and investment.”
Responding to accusations that the Ennahda party was behind the assassination, Ghannouchi said, “It is not in the interest of any ruling party in the world to explode the political and social situation, and to sow violence and murder. Accusing the Ennahda party or the government [of this] is like pouring fuel on the fire.”
As for accusations that the Interior Ministry failed in its duties, Ghannouchi said, “There can be no doubt that it should prioritize this criminal investigation,” adding, “This highlights the security failure.”
Commenting on calls for the Interior Minister to step down—before Jebali’s announcement of the failure of negotiations—Ghannouchi said, “The country has been living in the midst of political crisis for some time now, and there are efforts to establish a new government . . . perhaps this incident can accelerate this.”