Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned today “following a failed effort to form an apolitical government to see the country out of its political crisis,” AP reports:
The resignation is expected to further deepen the country’s political instability, which also prompted an international ratings agency to downgrade the government’s credit rating.
Jebali was trying to form a government of politically neutral technocrats in the run-up to fresh elections in an attempt to soothe the political turmoil prompted by the killing of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid.
The Islamists control the interior, foreign and justice ministries and dominate the national assembly. Gannouchi said the representatives of some 15 parties had agreed on Monday on the need for a government with “political competences” and tasked with holding elections as soon as possible.
The political deadlock has left the country paralyzed.
“Everything has stopped. The problem is that nobody thinks about the general interest but only of their special interests,” a government official told AFP.
The Islamist group rallied its supporters in Tunis over the weekend (above) in what Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra calls “a show of force and a show of solidarity with Ennahda”.
“Opposition parties accuse the government of failing to discipline violent groups, from hard-line Salafi Muslims to rowdy pro-government demonstrators called the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution,” reports suggest:
Ordinary Tunisians complain of a malaise that has deepened since Ben Ali’s removal. Uncertainty has frightened investors and tourists. Unemployment shot to 19 percent in 2011 and remains at around 17 percent – with youth and rural regions hit even harder.
Meanwhile, Ennahda’s coalition partners, the Congrès pour la République (CPR) and Ettakatol parties, have accused it of hoarding power. Ennahda has resisted their demand since last summer that it relinquish key ministries.
Jebali’s offer to dissolve the ruling coalition was welcomed by the secular opposition, but rejected by his own party.
“The rejection indicated that there not only divisions among the various parties in Tunisia but also within Ennahda,” observers suggest.
According to the FT’s Roula Khalaf, “politicians who deal closely with Nahda say that the party is home to different Islamist trends, with a base that is more radical than its leadership”:
While secularists accuse Nahda of being too soft on the puritanical Salafis, who are expanding their base by preaching a socially strict Islam, a wing of the party is closer in its views to the Salafis and considers that the leadership is departing from its Islamist mission.
Ennahda’s militias have been working closely with Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, the violent Salafist group that attacked the US Embassy, says Habib M. Sayah, director of the Tunis-based Kheireddine Institute;
“Interestingly, AST’s security committees have joined forces with the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution (LPR), which are Islamic youth organizations connected to Ennahdha’s hard wing,” he notes. “This synergy may indicate that from now on Ennahdha’s hardliners are relying on Abu Iyadh to undermine the rise of the secular opposition.”
The Islamists have targeted the UGTT labor unions for attack, analysts note, as the labor movement is a non-sectarian secular bastion that played a leading role in the Jasmine Revolution.
“It bears noting that Islamists were largely absent from the 2010-2011 demonstrations that led to the ouster of former president Ben Ali; after initially spontaneous protests, it was the union leadership that added crucial muscle to the nonviolent campaign,” write Middle East specialists Ahmed Charai and Joseph Braude.