Rift deepens in Tunisian governing party

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali’s plan to set up a non-partisan cabinet in wake of the assassination of secular politician Chokri Belaid has been rejected by his own Islamist party.

Earlier in the week, Belaid was shot and killed on his way to work.  No one has claimed responsibility for the crime, but many on the Tunisian left suspect that hardcore Islamists were behind the attack.  In response, young people from across the country have poured into the streets in protest, and labor leaders promised nationwide strikes on Friday.

Demonstrations in response to the assassination of a secular politician have rocked Tunisia

Fearing further unrest, Prime Minister Jebali offered to replace his moderate Islamist government with an interim, non-partisan cabinet comprised of policy experts and bureaucrats until federal elections take place.

His own Ennahda party, however, has refused the Prime Minister’s plan.

“The prime minister did not ask the opinion of his party,” said Abdelhamid Jelassi, Ennahda’s vice-president. “We in Ennahda believe Tunisia needs a political government now. We will continue discussions with other parties about forming a coalition government.”

Tunisian analysts claim that extended political deadlock could intensify the unrest, which has highlighted the rift between Islamists and secular groups who fear that freedoms of expression, cultural liberty and women’s rights are at risk less than two years after the revolution that birthed the Arab Spring movement.

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