Tunisian president asks Islamists to form new government
Sheesh - talk about inviting the wolf into the parlor for some tea...
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Friday asked Interior Minister Ali Larayedh, a hardliner from the main Islamist Ennahda party, to form a government within two weeks, his spokesman said.
He had proposed the idea after Belaid's assassination, the first in Tunisia for decades. The killing ignited three days of mass protests that exposed deep rifts between Islamists and their opponents in a fledgling democracy with an ailing economy.
Jebali, who remains Ennahda's secretary-general, refused to head the next government after his own party rejected his plan for an apolitical technocrat cabinet to prepare for elections.
Marzouki's spokesman told a news conference Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi had formally nominated Larayedh to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who resigned on Tuesday.
Ennahda is the biggest party in the National Constituent Assembly with 89 of its 217 seats. Marzouki's secular Congress for the Republic party, the second largest with 29 seats, has already said it will join a new Ennahda-led coalition.
But Ennahda's choice is likely to raise hackles among liberal Tunisians, some of whom accuse Larayedh's Interior Ministry of failing to curb violence by Islamists against advocates of secularism, including journalists and artists.
However, they give him credit for taking firm action against Islamist militants with alleged links to al Qaeda.
The assassination of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid on February 6 plunged Tunisia into its worst crisis since the overthrow of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.
Like Egypt, Tunisia used to be a mostly secular society with a strong, oppressive military presence. Now the oppressors will be Islamists and their notions of sharia law.
No doubt the State Department will praise the ascension of the Islamists as "democracy in action" or some such nonsense. In truth, the death of democracy is right around the corner.