Tunisian coalition party backs idea of technocrat cabinet

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 12, 2013 6:55 AM
Tunisian coalition party backs idea of technocrat cabinet

TUNIS (Reuters) - A secular party in Tunisia's Islamist-led ruling coalition on Tuesday threw its weight behind Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's proposal to form a technocrat cabinet after the killing of a leftist opposition politician.

The assassination of Chokri Belaid last Wednesday sent political shock waves through Tunisia, the cradle of revolts that rippled across the Arab world two years ago.

"Ettakatol approves the government of technocrats proposed by Jebali," Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the party's secretary-general and the president of Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly, told a news conference.

"Ettakatol believes that everything changed after Belaid's assassination," he said, adding that the resignations of the party's ministers were at the prime minister's disposal.

Acting on his own initiative, Jebali announced he would set up an apolitical cabinet of technocrats following Belaid's killing, an idea that ran into strong opposition from within his own Ennahda party. Talks on the plan are still under way.

Ettakatol, one of two non-Islamist parties in a coalition government led by the Islamist Ennahda party since December 2011, had not previously stated its position on Jebali's plan.

Ben Jaafar urged Ennahda to support Jebali's proposal for a neutral government to prepare for the next elections, saying Tunisia's transition to democracy was at stake.

"If this Tunisian experiment fails, no Arab experiment will succeed," he said, calling for national unity and reconciliation.

A secular party led by interim President Moncef Marzouki, the Congress for the Republic, said on Monday it had reversed its decision to quit the government to allow for more talks.

Belaid's assassination, the first of its kind in Tunisia for decades, has worsened a political crisis, widening rifts between the dominant Islamist Ennahda party and its secular-minded foes.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Mark Potter)