Tunisian woman denies will head opposition's alternative cabinet

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 11, 2013 2:31 PM
Tunisian woman denies will head opposition's alternative cabinet

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - A prominent female Tunisian businesswoman said on Sunday she was not interested in becoming prime minister, playing down speculation she might head an alternative cabinet that the opposition plans to announce this week.

Media had reported that Wided Bouchamaoui, 52, the first woman president of Tunisia's Chambers of Commerce and Industry, might be named alternative prime minister by the secularist opposition Salvation Front which is trying to topple the Islamist-led government.

"I thank all those who considered me able to take a political responsibility. I confirm that I am not interested in any position or political responsibility," Bouchamaoui said in a statement.

"My efforts are aimed at ensuring the economy survives this critical stage," she added.

Emboldened by the army's toppling of Egypt's Islamist president and angered by the assassination of leading leftist figures, Tunisia's opposition said on Saturday said it would announce an alternative government in the coming days.

Bouchamaoui, who took the prominent business role after the 2011 revolution swept away much of Tunisia's traditional elite, told Reuters last year that political uncertainty was hampering the government's response to economic problems.

The Salvation Front is a coalition of more than a dozen secular opposition parties that came together after the murder of prominent secularist politician Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, six months after another leftist figure was gunned down

Jilani Hammami, a senior Salvation Front member, said the group had made progress in deciding the line-up of its alternative cabinet and that it would make important announcements on Tuesday during an anti-government rally.

Opposition leaders have rejected the idea of reconciliation with the moderate Islamist party Ennahda which leads the government and have demanded it step down.

Ennahda's party chief, Rachid Ghannouchi, told Reuters last week that the party was open to dialogue but that removing Prime Minister Ali Larayedh was out of the question.

The head of the transitional parliament suspended the legislature's work last Tuesday until the government starts talks with the opposition.

Hussein Abassi, head of Tunisia's powerful union federation, said he would start talks on Monday with Ghannouchi to seek an end to the political crisis.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)