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Tunisia: Talks continue as political parties weigh up their options - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tunisian protesters hold a giant national flag during an anti government demonstration on November 15, 2013 in Tunis (AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID_

Tunisian protesters hold a giant national flag during an anti government demonstration on November 15, 2013 in Tunis (AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID_

Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—Political factions in Tunisia have continued to hold unofficial side meetings in preparation for the resumption of the political dialogue sessions between the government and opposition at the start of next week.

The Ennahda movement and the Call for Tunis, the most prominent parties in the race for government, have held the meetings to discuss new proposals on the formation of the new government, including going back to the idea of a national unity government, following the failure to reach agreement on a candidate for a new prime minister.

However, Ennahda’s former partner in government, Ettakatol—also known as the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties—has opposed the idea of a national unity government because of disagreements over the distribution of cabinet posts.

Meanwhile, mediation efforts by the Quartet sponsoring Tunisia’s national dialogue—the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, Tunisian General Labour Union, and the National Bar Association—have failed to resolve the political crisis brought to a head by the assassination of left-wing politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi last year.

Both the government and opposition continue to exchange accusations as to who is responsible for the failure of the dialogue, who caused it to exceed its deadline for forming a new government, and who is responsible for the failure to agree on a prime minister.

Spokesman for the Ennahda movement Lajmi Louremi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the government and opposition will have much to lose if political dialogue fails. He claimed Ennahda has offered many concessions while the opposition was largely responsible for disrupting the transitional phase.

Louremi denied that Ennahda movement’s main electoral base had been affected and that the most recent polls showed it was regaining the confidence of Tunisians while the opposition was in decline.

Meanwhile, political analyst Mounthir Thabit told Asharq Al-Awsat that the opposition had lost more support than the Ennahda movement, which successfully managed to maneuver through the recent unrest and continue to govern despite painful blows from the opposition. He pointed to the fact that the Ennahda-led government survived the public anger which followed the assassinations of Belaid and Brahmi as proof.

Thabit said the main problem of the Troika—the governing coalition of the Ennahda, Ettakatol, and Congress for the Republic parties—was its weakness in the administration of ministries and lack of experience in managing security, which has negatively affected investment and greatly harmed the economic and social situation.

Meanwhile, Adel El Shawesh, a leading figure of Call for Tunis movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the political class in Tunisia has “lost much” but that Ennahda was the biggest loser. He added that Ennahda acknowledged the crisis, but claimed it had damaged its own credibility by maneuvering to extend the transitional period and keep itself in office.

El Shawesh added that the level of responsibility of political parties varied in relation to the crisis, and that the Troika, especially Ennahda, took the biggest share of that responsibility, though he said 51 percent of Tunisians blamed the whole political class for worsening the political, social and economic crisis.