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Tunisia’s Ettakatol Doubtful About Technocrat Government Deal

Tunisia’s Ettakatol Doubtful About Technocrat Government Deal
Thousands of supporters of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party holding the largest bloc of seats in parliament, massed yesterday in protest against a push by the premier to replace the current Cabinet with a body of technocrats. Photographer: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP via Getty Images

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- One of the three parties ruling Tunisia voiced doubts that an agreement would be reached on forming a technocratic government, saying the main Islamic group seemed more interested in street protests than dialogue.

There are “no positive indications for agreement,” the Ettakatol Party’s spokesman, Mohamed Bennour, said in an interview. He said he hopes “the voice of reason and the interests of Tunisia will win over partisan interests.”

The comments from the party from which President Moncef Marzouki hails reflect the divide in the birthplace of the so-called Arab Spring. Thousands of supporters of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party holding the largest bloc of seats in parliament, massed yesterday in protest against a push by the premier to replace the current Cabinet with a body of technocrats in a bid to ease tensions after the assassination of a leading opposition politician earlier this month.

The Feb. 6 killing of Chukri Beleid in front of his home plunged Tunisia into the worst political crisis it has endured since President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011, and spotlighted simmering tensions in the country where the opposition has claimed Ennahda is seeking to monopolize power and intimidate its critics. Secularists are also worried the moderate Islamist movement is courting ultraconservative Salafis who comprise a small and increasingly vocal bloc intent on imposing Islamic law in the country.

Jbeli Initiative

Prime Minister Hamadi Jbeli, faced with mounting opposition, warned he would quit his post if his bid to form a new government fails. Jbeli is expected to announce tomorrow whether the days of discussions have resulted in a compromise.

The prime minister’s initiative is aimed at calming the political situation in the country, “but Ennahda insists on going back onto the streets to show its power,” Bennour said. These marches only serve to “increase tension while the country needs calm from all,” he said.

Ettakatol’s secretary-general, Mustafa Ben Jaafar, said the party supports forming a technocratic government that also includes “qualified” political figures, arguing it was the only way out of the current political crisis, the state-run TAP news agency reported.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jihen Laghmari in Cairo at jlaghmari@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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