Islamist government in Tunisia to resign

Rick Moran
After months of protests from the secular opposition, the Islamist government of Tunisia has agree to resign and turn the country over to a caretaker government until new parliamentary and presidential elections can be held.

BBC:

Tunisia's Islamist-led government has agreed to resign after talks with opponents that are to start next week.

It is hoped a caretaker government will be negotiated over the next three weeks that will prepare for new elections.

The decision marks a breakthrough in weeks of crisis involving the ruling coalition, led by the Islamist Ennahda party, and the secular opposition.

Anti-government protests intensified recently after the killing of two opposition figures.

The crisis has threatened to disrupt a transition to democracy that began after Tunisians threw out their decades-old authoritarian government at the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

The talks were announced on Saturday by the powerful UGTT labour union, which will act as a mediator.

The union urged both sides to set a date for next week.

Under the deal, the Ennahda party has agreed to three weeks of talks, after which it will hand power to an independent transition leadership and set a date for parliamentary and presidential elections.

The dialogue will start on Monday or Tuesday," said Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official, according to Reuters.

"Ennahda has accepted the plan without conditions to get the country out of the political crisis."

While Tunisia's uprising spread through the Arab world, efforts to strengthen democracy at home have stalled due to political antagonism.

The opposition has accused the Ennahda party of pushing an Islamist agenda in the previously secular nation.

The rivalry intensified this year after the murders of opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi in July and Chokri Belaid, a prominent leftist, in February.

The moderate Islamist government has blamed hardliners for the killings but the National Salvation Front-led opposition has accused Ennahda of failing to rein in radical Islamists.

Before the 2011 ousting of Tunisia's longtime leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the country had been known as one of the most secular in the Arab world.

The opposition has accused Ennahda of being too tolerant of radical Islamists trends.

Tunisia was the original "Arab Spring" country so the significance of the Islamists being booted out in another "soft coup" shouldn't be lost on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. It appears that a majority of people in the Middle East may give support to Islamists in elections - until they discover what it means to have a government trying to impose sharia law on the populace.

Just two years ago, Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and the salafist parties were bragging they were the wave of the future. But with a region in transition to something looking like democracy, the move toward secularism appears to be a backlash against overreach by the extremists.

Don't count them out yet. Discontent with the status quo will be the new normal and who's to say that the Islamists won't reinvent themselves, presenting a more moderate image to the voter?



After months of protests from the secular opposition, the Islamist government of Tunisia has agree to resign and turn the country over to a caretaker government until new parliamentary and presidential elections can be held.

BBC:

Tunisia's Islamist-led government has agreed to resign after talks with opponents that are to start next week.

It is hoped a caretaker government will be negotiated over the next three weeks that will prepare for new elections.

The decision marks a breakthrough in weeks of crisis involving the ruling coalition, led by the Islamist Ennahda party, and the secular opposition.

Anti-government protests intensified recently after the killing of two opposition figures.

The crisis has threatened to disrupt a transition to democracy that began after Tunisians threw out their decades-old authoritarian government at the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

The talks were announced on Saturday by the powerful UGTT labour union, which will act as a mediator.

The union urged both sides to set a date for next week.

Under the deal, the Ennahda party has agreed to three weeks of talks, after which it will hand power to an independent transition leadership and set a date for parliamentary and presidential elections.

The dialogue will start on Monday or Tuesday," said Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official, according to Reuters.

"Ennahda has accepted the plan without conditions to get the country out of the political crisis."

While Tunisia's uprising spread through the Arab world, efforts to strengthen democracy at home have stalled due to political antagonism.

The opposition has accused the Ennahda party of pushing an Islamist agenda in the previously secular nation.

The rivalry intensified this year after the murders of opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi in July and Chokri Belaid, a prominent leftist, in February.

The moderate Islamist government has blamed hardliners for the killings but the National Salvation Front-led opposition has accused Ennahda of failing to rein in radical Islamists.

Before the 2011 ousting of Tunisia's longtime leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the country had been known as one of the most secular in the Arab world.

The opposition has accused Ennahda of being too tolerant of radical Islamists trends.

Tunisia was the original "Arab Spring" country so the significance of the Islamists being booted out in another "soft coup" shouldn't be lost on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. It appears that a majority of people in the Middle East may give support to Islamists in elections - until they discover what it means to have a government trying to impose sharia law on the populace.

Just two years ago, Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and the salafist parties were bragging they were the wave of the future. But with a region in transition to something looking like democracy, the move toward secularism appears to be a backlash against overreach by the extremists.

Don't count them out yet. Discontent with the status quo will be the new normal and who's to say that the Islamists won't reinvent themselves, presenting a more moderate image to the voter?