February 1, 2015 / 5:13 PM / 3 years ago

Tunisia's Islamist party agrees to join coalition government

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party Ennahda has agreed to join its main rival secular party Nidaa Tounes in a coalition government, party leaders said on Sunday.

The agreement could bolster stability in Tunisia, which is just emerging from its transition to full democracy four years after the uprising that ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

The deal came after Tunisian Prime Minister-designate Habib Essid’s new cabinet faced a threat of rejection in parliament last week from key parties, including Ennahda, because they opposed his choice of ministers.

The prime minister had announced a government without any cabinet posts for moderate Islamists.

Despite tensions and a political crisis that almost ended its transition, Tunisian politics has been dominated by compromises between secular and Islamist leaders to help keep the North African country on track.

“Ennahda will participate in the government... the future looks good,” Rached Ghannouchi, head of Ennahda, told reporters after meeting with Essid on Sunday, without giving more details.

The premier will likely announce his new cabinet on Monday before it goes to parliament for ratification on Wednesday.

The leader of liberal Afek Tounes party, Yassin Brahim, told reporters on Sunday the new government will include Nidaa Tounes, Afek Tounes, ULP party and Ennahda.

Two party sources said Ennahda will provide two cabinet ministers and two state ministers in the new government.

Nidaa Tounes won the most seats in the October election, which was one of the last steps in Tunisia’s path to full democracy after its 2011 popular uprising. Party leader Beji Caid Essebsi also won the presidency.

Ennahda, with the second largest number of seats in the assembly, had sought a unity government.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Patrick Markey and Raissa Kasolowsky

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