TUNIS: Tunisia’s political rivals agreed on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) on a timetable for the unpopular Islamist-led ruling coalition to quit and be replaced by a government of independents, aiming to end a festering political crisis.
The Islamist Ennahda party and opposition groups in the country that gave birth to the Arab Spring signed a roadmap aimed at creating a new government within three weeks.
The deal, signed in the presence of politicians and media, was brokered to end a simmering two-month crisis sparked by the assassination in July of opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi.
The document, drawn up by four mediators, foresees the nomination of an independent prime minister by the end of next week, who would then have two weeks to form a cabinet.
It says that after the first day of national dialogue, “the government will resign with a delay not exceeding three weeks.”
One of the leaders of Ennahda, Abdelhamid Jlassi, said the national dialogue proper is not expected to start on Monday, however.
“First there will be preparatory meetings, and the date of the government’s resignation will not be determined until the start of the real national dialogue,” he said.
“Ennahda’s signature today is a major concession made in the interests of the country,” he added.
Saturday’s ceremony got under way after a delay of several hours that underscored the mutual distrust between the rival camps.
“I want to thank you for joining this dialogue because you are opening the door of hope for Tunisians,” said Houcine Abassi, whose UGTT trade union confederation was the lead mediator behind the roadmap.
Delegates at the Palais des Congres said the launch of the hard-won dialogue with a symbolic ceremony had earlier been jeopardized by a last-minute dispute.
The UGTT said Ennahda had initially refused to formally sign the text that underlines the timetable of the national dialogue.
It was not immediately clear how it was resolved, but Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi on Twitter blamed the almost four-hour delay on “last-minute blackmail” by the opposition.
Ennahda eventually signed the agreement, but its secular ally, the Congress for the Republic party of President Moncef Marzouki, refused to do so.