Tunisia Islamist leader says new govt coming

AP News
Posted: Feb 18, 2013 3:16 PM
Tunisia Islamist leader says new govt coming

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The head of Tunisia's largest political party said Monday that the country's crisis will be solved by a new compromise government of technocrats and politicians.

Rachid Ghannouchi, whose moderate Islamist Ennahda party holds the most seats in parliament, said the leaders of the main parties had agreed on a new limited Cabinet that would work toward holding new elections as quickly as possible.

Tunisia was plunged into a political crisis after the assassination on Feb. 6 of a leftist opposition politician provoked anti-government riots around the country and sapped confidence in the Ennahda-led Cabinet.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali originally called for a technocratic government to guide the country to new elections and threatened to quit if his initiative was rejected.

On Monday, Jebali announced his technocrat option did not have sufficient support and that he would see President Moncef Marzouki on Tuesday. Jebali did not say he would resign.

Ennahda, his own political party, which had rejected his initiative, said it still wants Jebali to remain as the head of government.

"We of Ennahda continue to support the leadership of Hamadi Jebali at the head of government, and this is the case of all parties at the meeting," said Ghannouchi. The meeting consisted of 11 heads of parties, including the opposition.

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Katie Pavlich

Tunisians overthrew their long-ruling dictator in January 2011 and kicked off the Arab Spring uprisings in the region. A moderate Islamist Party won elections and formed a coalition with secular parties, but the country has been dogged by a faltering economy, high expectations, and a rising strain of extremist Islam prone to violence.

Efforts to write a new constitution and organize elections for a permanent government also were stalled by bickering between the political parties, culminating in the crisis over the assassination.