Tunisia coalition government to be formed in days

Tunisia became the birth-place of the "Arab Spring" uprisings when it ousted its president this year.

Tunis: The Islamist-led coalition formed after last month`s Tunisian election will unveil a government within days and will retain the serving defense minister, party officials said on Thursday.

Tunisia became the birth-place of the "Arab Spring" uprisings when it ousted its president this year, and since then it has made a relatively smooth transition to democracy, defying predictions the rise of Islamists would cause conflict.

The north African country last month elected an assembly which will draft a new constitution and set new elections. The chamber will be dominated by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, in coalition with two secularist parties.

"The new government will be announced in a few days and not a few weeks," Samir Dilou, a leading figure in Ennahda said. "There is an agreement in principle that the defense minister will keep his place."

Samir Ben Amor, of the Congress for the Republic, a junior coalition partner, confirmed that account of negotiations on the new cabinet and said he expected it would be ready next week.

Defense Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi has held the post since shortly after the January 14 revolution which forced President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Many Tunisians respect Zbidi for the military`s role in helping keep order on the streets while staying out of politics.

Ennahda has been keen to send a message of continuity, and has indicated that the finance minister and central bank governor are also likely to keep their posts.

Dilou, a member of Ennahda`s executive bureau, said negotiations were still under way about other cabinet jobs, and about who will be selected as president.

That is a largely ceremonial post, but the president may be asked to mediate if a conflict emerges between the leading parties in the new assembly.

Dilou said the choice for president was between Moncef Marzouki, head of the Congress for the Republic, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of Ettakatol, the third partner in the coalition.

Bureau Report

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