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Fri Jul 25 08:46:57 SAST 2014

Tunisian PM fails to form technocratic government

Sapa-dpa | 19 February, 2013 08:08
Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali speaks during a news conference in Tunis.
Image by: ZOUBEIR SOUISSI / REUTERS

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announced that his bid to form a technocratic government to steer the country out of a political crisis had failed.

Jebali said he would turn to President Moncef Marzouki Tuesday after failing to win the support of the country's main parties for his proposed non-partisan cabinet.

He did not say whether he intended to resign as he had previously threatened in the event his initiative failed.

Jebali's own ruling party Ennahda had opposed his proposal to appoint experts to run the country following the assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid on February 6.

The Islamist party, which won a qualified majority in the country's first free elections in 2011, argued that it still had a mandate to govern.

On Monday, the party's consultative council declared that a technocratic government did "not meet the needs of the present time" and called for a mixed team of politicians and technocrats instead.

The opposition, on the other hand, had largely approved Jebali's proposal, seeing in it a way to loosen Ennahda's grip on power.

A compromise, under which Ennahda and its two small secular coalition partners hold onto some ministries and technocrats manage the rest is deemed the most likely outcome.

The negotiations are likely to centre on the powerful ministries of justice, interior and foreign affairs, which are currently held by Ennahda appointees. The opposition wants those portfolios in "neutral" hands.

Belaid's killing thrust Tunisia into the worst crisis in the two years since the uprising that forced strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power in January 2011.

Th 48-year-old coordinator of the Popular Front coalition, who had fiercely defended the country's secular traditions, was killed by an unknown gunman.

An estimated 40,000 people took part in his funeral.

The ruling party has denied any hand in his death. Around 15,000 Ennahda supporters rallied in Tunis last weekend to defend against calls for the party to give up power.Authors: Tarak Guizani, Clare Byrne

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Fri Jul 25 08:46:58 SAST 2014 ::