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Tunisian government in turmoil with withdrawal of three ministers

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Tunisia was the first Middle Eastern country to overthrow its dictatorial rule in what would later become known as the "Arab Spring." However, as Egypt is painfully learning, democracy doesn't come easy. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has withdrawn its three ministers from the country's government on the pretense that its demands for changes in the cabinet have not been met.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The decision this weekend by Marzouki's Congress for the Republic Party has dealt another blow to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's government. Jebali's reign suffered a severe setback by last week's assassination of secular opposition leader Shokri Belaid.

"We have been saying for a week that if the foreign and justice ministers were not changed, we would withdraw from the government," Samir Ben Amor, a Congress for the Republic Party official told reporters.

"This decision has nothing to do with the prime minister's decision to form a government of technocrats," Samir said. The comment was in reference to Jebali's intention to name a non-partisan cabinet to run day-to-day affairs until elections can be held. Jebali has vowed to resign unless his Ennahda party, along with other parties accepts his proposals for an interim government of technocrats.

In dispute with his party over his proposal for a new government, Jebali has said that he would present his new cabinet "by the middle of next week by the latest," according to government news agencies.

He reiterated that if his team was accepted by parties represented in the country's constituent assembly without being put to a vote, he would remain on as prime minister. Otherwise, he said, he would resign.

Jebali first made the announcement last week just hours after the Belaid's assassination outside his home by an unknown assailant.

Jebali says he is confident he could gain his party's support. It remains unclear how he plans to pull enough support to his side. "I am convinced this is the best solution for the current situation in Tunisia," Jebali said.

Sunday's developments came a day after thousands of supporters of Ennahda demonstrated in Tunis. Protestors marched along the central Avenue Bourguiba chanting "The people still want Ennahda" and "The revolution continues."

Some of the protesters shouted anti-French slogans, as the government has accused France of meddling over critical comments by Manuel Valls, French interior minister, who denounced the killing as an attack on "the values of Tunisia's Jasmine revolution."

"France get out!" and "The people want to protect the legitimacy" of the government were among slogans chanted by Ennahda supporters who numbered more than 3,000., AFP journalists estimated. "Enough, France! Tunisia will never again be a French colony," proclaimed some of banners waved by protesters.

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