Tunisian PM quits after failing to form new government

Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:22pm EST
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By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned on Tuesday after failing to replace a government pulled apart by acrimony between his Islamist allies and their secular opponents.

Jebali had threatened to quit if his plan for a non-partisan cabinet of technocrats to lead the north African country into early elections foundered.

In the end it was his own party, Ennahda, that rejected the proposal, prolonging the political stand-off that has cast a shadow over Tunisia's fledgling democracy and deepened an economic crisis.

"I vowed that if my initiative did not succeed, I would resign and ... I have already done so," Jebali told a news conference after meeting with President Moncef Marzouki.

Tunisia's deepest political crisis since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali began when leading secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his home in Tunis on February 6.

No one claimed responsibility for the killing, but it deepened the misgivings of secularists who believe Jebali's government has failed to deal firmly enough with religious extremists threatening the country's stability.

Protesters poured onto the streets in the following days and Marzouki's secularist party threatened to quit the coalition government.

Jebali said he would try to form a cabinet of apolitical technocrats to restore calm and take Tunisia to elections, but did not consult his Ennahda allies or their secular coalition partners before making the proposal.   Continued...

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali arrives to address a news conference in Tunis February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi