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article imageOp-Ed: Tunisia to form a national unity government

By Ken Hanly     Feb 6, 2013 in Politics
Tunis - Tunisian Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, announced he would dissolve his Islamist-led government to form a new government of non-partisan members and technocrats. The move follows the assassination of a prominent opposition member Chokri Belaid.
Jabali said his decision was a personal one that he took because he thought it would be in the interests of Tunisia. Chokri Belaid was shot three times in front of his home yesterday at close range by a gunman who wore a traditional burnouse robe. After being shot, Belaid was transported to a hospital in the suburbs of Tunis where he died of his wounds. Belaid was leader of the left-leaning Democratic Patriots party,
After angry protests, protesters set up barricades in central Tunis and fought with police, four opposition groups including Belaid's Popular Front bloc said they were pulling out of the national assembly. In central Tunis, a National Guard tank fired tear gas at protesters, who were using bins, coffee tables, barbed wire, and other material to build barricades on Habib Bourguba Avenue.
After about a 20 minute skirmish, security reinforcements arrived and police wearing helmets and carrying clubs charged into about 150 protesters who fled into neighbouring streets. In several towns, offices of the ruling Ennahda party were torched. In Tunis, crowds of mourners crowded about an ambulance carrying Belaid's body chanting "the people want the fall of the regime".
While the president, Moncef Marzouki , denounced the killing as an "odious assassination", Belaid's family accused the Ennahda party of being behind the killing. Belaids wife noted that he received death threats daily. The head of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi rejected any association of his party with the killing. He said the killers want to provoke a bloodbath in Tunisia but will not be successful.
Belaid had been very critical of the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda. He particularly was critical of the government for not doing more to stop ultra-conservative groups from using violence to advance their aims. Groups of fundamentalists have targeted mausoleums, art exhibits, and any other features of Tunisian society that they consider un-Islamic.
The ruling Ennahda party won 42% of the vote back in October of 2011. However, economic conditions have deteriorated and many people face hardships. Many think that the revolution has done nothing to increase their own prosperity,. At the same time conservative Salafist groups want to impose a strict Islamic type of life upon all Tunisians. The Ennahda party faces not only economic problems but the prospect of losing votes to militants if they crack down on Salafist protest actions. The Prime Minster may have made the wisest decision under the circumstances.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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