Tunisia’s Ennahda rejects dissolving cabinet

Tunisia’s ruling Islamic Ennahda party has rejected Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali’s proposal to dissolve the government and install a cabinet of technocrats in a bid to restore calm after the killing of an opposition leader.
“The prime minister did not ask the opinion of his party,” said Abdelhamid Jelassi, Ennahda’s vice-president on Thursday. “We in Ennahda believe Tunisia needs a political government now. We will continue discussions with others parties about forming a coalition government.” Jebali announced he was dissolving the government on Wednesday after leading secular opposition politician Shokri Belaid was gunned down outside his home in Tunis, sending protesters onto the streets across the country.
On Thursday, hundreds of opposition protesters clashed with police outside the governor’s office in the central Tunisian town of Gafsa, an AFP news agency journalist reported. The protesters, who were observing a symbolic funeral for Belaid, threw petrol bombs at the police, who fired large quantities of tear gas in a bid to disperse them. Following news of Belaid’s death on Wednesday, violence and protests broke out on the streets of Tunis.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Janabi in Tunis reported violent clashes between Belaid’s supporters and police along the main Habib Borguiba Avenue, with the police using tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters and making numerous arrests. Earlier, crowds of mourners, chanting “the people want the fall of the regime”, crowded around an ambulance carrying Belaid’s body.
As the protests intensified, four Tunisian opposition groups, including the Popular Front, of which the Democratic Patriots is a component, announced they were pulling out of the national assembly.
Belaid had been critical of Tunisia’s leadership, especially the Ennahda party that dominates the government. He had accused authorities of not doing enough to stop violence by ultraconservatives who have targeted mausoleums, art exhibits and other things seen as out of keeping with their strict interpretation of Islam. Samir Dilou, a government spokesperson, called Belaid’s killing an “odious crime”. Moncef Marzouki, the Tunisian president, said he would fight those who opposed the political transition in his country after the death of Belaid. Marzouki, who cut short a visit to France on Wednesday, told legislators at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to applause: “We will continue to fight the enemies of the revolution.” Marzouki also cancelled a visit to Egypt scheduled for Thursday after the killing, which brought thousands of protesters onto the streets outside the Interior Ministry. Chanting for the fall of the Ennahda-led government, demonstrators shouted “Shame, shame Shokri died”, “Where is the government?”, and “The government should fall”.
Ongoing instability: The assassination comes as Tunisia is struggling to maintain stability and revive its economy after its longtime dictator was overthrown in an uprising two years ago.
Mohammed Jmour, another opposition leader, criticised the government in a press conference on Wednesday for failing to protect Belaid against stated threats.
“Threats of plunging into a whirlpool of violence that can be caused by a number of bodies, the state, the revolution guarding committees and armed groups,” Jmour said.

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