Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh has rejected opposition calls for his government to resign. This came in the first statement Larayedh made since the protests that erupted across the country following the assassination of left-wing politician Mohammed Brahmi.
Larayedh suggested that legislative and presidential elections be held on December 17, with the drafting of the constitution being concluded by next August, with this document being presented to the Constituent Assembly on October 23 for ratification.
In a news conference at the government palace in the capital Tunis, Larayedh strongly criticized “attempts to launch attacks on the institutions and exploit the national tragedy for personal or party benefit.”
He said the relationship between the government and the opposition “could not succeed by declaring civil disobedience and holding street protests, the use of violence or coercion, but by open dialogue with all parties.”
Larayedh said his government had made every effort to fight armed terrorist groups, a fact which enabled it to announce the name of Brahmi’s murderer within 24 hours. He added that the government was not interested in clinging to power, and was committed to provide the conditions for free and transparent elections, inviting international observers to oversee the process to ensure its credibility.
Meanwhile, leading figure in the Nida Tounes party (Tunisian Call), Mohcen Marzouk, said Larayedh’s speech was “disappointing and forgettable.” He added that the most important point which Larayedh failed to mention was the admission of the government’s failure.
Marzouk said the dialogue which Larayedh had proposed was not possible under the current circumstances. He added that this discourse would lead the country into the unknown, and Larayedh’s record as interior minister and prime minister meant he should have resigned months before Brahmi’s assassination.
In another development, the Ettakatol party, which is part of the ruling coalition led by the Islamist Ennahda Party, called on the government to be dissolved in order to avoid a “major political crisis.” A leading figure in the Ettakatol, Lubna Djerbi, said her party called for the government to be dissolved and for a national unity government to be formed, representing all parties, “and if the Ennahda rejected our proposals, we will withdraw from the government.”
Minister delegate to the prime minister, Noureddine Bhairi, made a statement following an emergency meeting of the government on Monday. He warned of the danger of “destruction, conflict, and violence if the Constituent Assembly and the government were dissolved.”
Bhairi, who is a leading figure in the Ennahda party, said: “What are the alternatives to the Constituent Assembly? What are the alternatives to the elected government? What are the alternatives to the ballot box? There is no alternative to those except destruction, conflict and violence.” He called for dialogue and unity and criticized opposition protests.
In a step seen as decisive by the Interior Ministry to disperse the protesters, security forces closed all entrances to Bardot Square near the Constituent Assembly and fenced the area with barbed wire. They also banned traffic in the area.
Security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity that these measures were taken to avoid contact between the two sides, and was seen as the ideal way of guaranteeing the safety of protesters on one side, and supporters of the government, on the other.