Tunisian president's party quits Islamist-led government

Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:06am EST
 
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By Tarek Amara and Alistair Lyon

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki's secular party withdrew on Sunday from an Islamist-led government already reeling from last week's assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

Belaid's killing on Wednesday - Tunisia's first such political assassination in decades - has thrown the government and the country into turmoil, widening rifts between the dominant Islamist Ennahda party and its secular-minded foes.

"We have been saying for a week that if the foreign and justice ministers were not changed, we would withdraw from the government," Samir Ben Amor, an official of Marzouki's Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), told Reuters.

The CPR has criticized the performance of the two ministers, one of whom, Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem, is the son-in-law of Ennahda party leader Rachid Ghannouchi.

Ben Amor said the CPR's withdrawal was unconnected to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's decision, announced after Belaid was killed, to form a non-partisan government of technocrats to run the country until elections can be held later in the year.

Senior politicians in Ennahda, as well as in its two non-Islamist coalition partners, had criticized Jebali's proposal, saying he had failed to consult them first.

Jebali said on Saturday he would unveil his new cabinet this week, but would resign if political parties did not support it.

A senior Ennahda official, who asked not to be named, said the National Constituent Assembly would have the final say, but added: "We see that it will be possible to form a government of technocrats that includes political parties."   Continued...

 
Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki listens his national anthem at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jean-Marc Loos