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Tunisia PM reiterates proposal to form new Cabinet

Last Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 13:46

Zeenews Bureau

Tunis: Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has reiterated the need to form a new Cabinet of technocrats after a key opposition leader was assassinated last week, despite the ruling party Ennahda rejecting the idea.

Jebali said that he would resign if his proposal to form a new Cabinet was rejected.

Speaking in an interview to a news channel, Jebali said that it was necessary to form a government with non-political technocrats who would guide the country till the next elections are held.

"I feel obliged to save my country," he said, adding that Tunisia risks a "swing into chaos."

"I will continue to assume my role, if the new team is accepted," Jebali said. If not, he will withdraw from the government.

He had first mooted the idea last Wednesday; the day opposition leader Chokri Belaid was assassinated, sparking protests.

But his own party, the ruling Islamist Ennahda, is against the proposal.

As Jebali spoke, several thousand pro-government protesters rallied on the main avenue of the capital. But outside Tunis, groups of youths threw stones at offices of the governing party and attacked police stations in several cities in scattered unrest.

The Interior Ministry said 230 people, aged 16 to 25, have been arrested since Friday, the day Chokri Belaid was buried. The slaying of the respected opposition figure unleashed anger, and his funeral drew hundreds of thousands of mourners chanting anti-government slogans in Tunis.

Saturday was the third straight day of unrest in this North African country, which overthrew its long-ruling president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in January 2011, kicking off the Arab Spring revolutions.

With tensions mounting, Jebali said he`ll appoint a new Cabinet by mid-week, saying it would be small, made up of technocrats and therefore neutral. He said that key ministries, notably Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs, would not be spared. Those ministries are currently led by ministers from his Ennahda party.

He called the planned changes a "Cabinet reshuffle" that would avoid the complicated — and riskier — process of dissolving the government. Such a new government would need approval from Tunisia`s Constituent Assembly.

But under Tunisian law, each new Cabinet minister also would still need individual approval from the Assembly — where Jebali`s Ennahda party has a majority.

Belaid, a human rights activist and one of Ennahda`s most outspoken critics, was shot to death in his car outside his home on Wednesday, and his killers have not been identified.

The assassination has added to the growing turmoil in Tunisia, where the transition from dictatorship to democracy has been shaken by religious divides, political wrangling and economic struggles.

Hopes had been high that Tunisia could be a model for other Arab states finding their way in the Arab Spring. In the two years since, Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, has won elections and governed in a coalition with two secular parties. However, there are growing signs of divisions within the party, made more visible after Belaid`s killing.

With Agency Inputs

First Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 10:02
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