Party leaders in Tunisia talk of new direction
Tunisian mediator and Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Houcine Abbassi speaks during a meeting as part of the dialogue between ruling Islamists and the opposition. [AFP]
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After rising jihadist violence, Tunisian party leaders were met Monday to work on an agreement to resolve a months-long political crisis.
The talk was part of what is being called “a national dialogue” which started on Friday. The goal is to replace the moderate Islamist Ennahda party in an effort to break the political stalemate, reported Ma’an News Agency.
UGTT trade union, a powerful force in the region, has been mediating talks between strong opposition and the government. The talks began around 1600 GMT on Monday.
In two weeks, the new prime minister, not yet chosen, will have had to form a government of independents.
There have been talks by local media of several figures that could replace the incumbent Prime Minister Ali Lararyedh but no confirmed individuals at this time.
A new constitution must also be drawn up by the end of November. The elected Constituent National Assembly will prepare the document. The group met Monday to discuss reforms to speed up the drafting of a new basic law.
The Assembly will also on Tuesday to discuss the creation of an authority to organize elections. According to the agreements about moving forward, this authority must be set up by the end of the week.
As long as agreements on the timetable are being respected, Larayedh has committed to step down.
"The Assembly must honor its commitments ... we envisage that it will complete its task within three weeks," Ennahda's veteran leader Rached Ghannouchi said on Monday as the talks began.
In July, after the assassination of the opposition leader, Mohammed Brahmi, the issue of the resignation of the Ennahda-led government increased.
Since the 2011 uprising that removed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and started the Arab Spring, Tunisia has been through a series of attacks blamed on jihadist groups previously suppressed under the leader.
The extremist groups have engaged several attacks on security forces, especially in the outland region with Algeria.
Opposition, and now security forces, has been outraged at the government’s inability to end the violence.
A 40,000 member police union has made threats to demonstrate if the government does not rise above the conflict to assure safety for the police.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Monday outside the interior ministry in Tunis in what was billed as a "symbolic national funeral" for slain members of the security forces.
"Tunisia is free! Terrorism out!" the demonstrators chanted. "With our souls and with our blood, we will avenge the martyrs."
Riadh Rezgui, a spokesman for the police union said that the government is "deliberately weakening the security services, given that we don't have the necessary equipment, not even bullet-proof vests."
The interior ministry has urged the police not to respond to calls for demonstration. Earlier this month, the same union engaged in a demonstration at a memorial ceremony for two policemen killed in clashes. The eventually drove away Larayehh and President Marzouki
The interior ministry reported late last Sunday that eight members of an armed cell has been arrested in connection with the police officer deaths.
Counterterrorism units arrested "eight terrorist elements implicated in the recent events" in the Sidi Bouzid region in central Tunisia, it said, adding that arms and explosives were also seized.
Protesters managed to torch Ennahda's office in Kef last Thursday, the town where the funeral was held for one of the policemen killed in last week's clashes.