Tunisian parties divvy up top government posts

AP News
Posted: Nov 19, 2011 8:12 AM
Tunisian parties divvy up top government posts

The three parties making up Tunisia's new ruling coalition on Saturday divided up the top government jobs between them, with the Islamist Ennahda taking the powerful position of prime minister, a coalition member said.

Samir Ben Amor of the Congress for the Republic, the No. 2 vote getter in the Oct. 25 elections, said his party's leader Moncef Marzouki will become president, while the leader of the left of center Ettakatol, or forum, party will become speaker of the assembly.

The deal will be presented for approval to the assembly when it holds its first meeting Monday.

Tunisia overthrew its long-ruling president in January in a popular uprising and then held successful elections nine months later for an assembly to write the new democracy's constitution.

The new leaders of Tunisia all have long histories of combatting the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled for Saudi Arabia after 23 years of iron-handed rule.

Ennahda's No. 2, Hamadi Jebali, who will become prime minister, spent 16 years in Ben Ali's prison.

Veteran human rights campaigner, Marzouki, spent 10 years in exile and was imprisoned for a few months when he tried to run against Ben Ali in 1994 elections.

The 217-member assembly, which will write the constitution, will be led by the widely respected Moustapha Ben Jaafar of Ettakatol, who was also known for his long-standing opposition to Ben Ali's rule.

The breakthrough in talks between the three parties, which together hold 139 seats in the assembly, came after Ettakatol briefly broke off negotiations following a speech from Jebali in which he said Tunisia was entering a "sixth Caliphate."

The Caliphate, a form of government based on Islamic law from the Middle Ages, is often evoked by hardline Islamists as the ideal system for all Muslims.

Ennahda, which has continually affirmed its moderate approach to Islam and respect for the country's progressive social legislation, apologized for the comments and said they were taken out of context.

Negotiations continue to distribute the remaining government posts, Ben Amor said.

The interim government will rule until the new constitution is finished and elections for a permanent legislative assembly will be held, expected after a year.