Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tunisia’s ruling three-party coalition and the opposition reached a deal to form a government of independents on Saturday, in a bid to break the political deadlock that gripped the country following the assassination of two prominent secular figures earlier this year.
The deal was signed by 20 parties. Among the parties that refused to sign the deal are the Congress for the Republic (CPR), the Popular Petition for Freedom, Justice and Development and others.
The head of the Islamist Ennahda Movement Rachid Ghannouchi signed the deal on behalf of the government, while a leading member of the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberty (FDTL), Al-Mwaldi Al-Riyahi, signed on part of the opposition.
The opposition signatories included the head of the Tunisian Call (Nida Tounes) Beji Caid El-Sebsi and the secretary-general of the Workers’ Party Hamma El-Hammami in addition to other opposition figures.
Under the deal the current Islamist government is to be replaced by a cabinet of independent technocrats with full powers to administer the affairs of the country.
The two sides are expected to hold further negotiations on the formation of the new cabinet within a month.
The head of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) Hassine Abassi told Asharq Al-Awsat that it took both sides a lot of effort to reach the settlement.
Abassi said he was optimistic about reaching consensus in a bid to end the “useless state of polarization” in the country, although the process of reaching a point where the two sides were ready to sign “was an extremely difficult and complicated issue.”
He also denied reports that the UGTT, which brokered the deal, was backing one party against the other, claiming that it maintained the highest degree of neutrality and independence.
During Saturday’s talks the Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki made sure to remind the participants of the necessity to end the political and fight terrorism.
For his part, the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly Mustapfa Ben Jafar firmly said that sitting on the “table of negotiations is not a choice we either accept or reject but a key popular demand.”
Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh, who did not announce his intention to step down, praised the record current government, which he said “succeeded in tightening up security,” and emphasized the need to keep the military out of politics.
Meanwhile, a senior interior ministry official told AFP that the country security apparatus “dismantled a terrorist cell” affiliated with Ansar Al-Shari’a.