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Tunisia: Interim Prime Minister selected | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Tunisia’s Industry Minister Mehdi is pictured in his office in Tunis in this June 25, 2013 file photo (REUTERS/Anis Mili/Files)

Tunisia's Industry Minister Mehdi is pictured in his office in Tunis in this June 25, 2013 file photo (REUTERS/Anis Mili/Files)

Tunisia’s Industry Minister Mehdi is pictured in his office in Tunis in this June 25, 2013 file photo (REUTERS/Anis Mili/Files)

UPDATE 10.38 GMT:London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tunisian Political parties involved in the National Dialogue chose the current Industry Minister, Mehdi Jomaa, to be the country’s next Prime Minister and lead a technocratic cabinet to replace the Islamist-led government.

Mehdi Jomaa, a 50 year old independent, is to succeed to Ali Larayedh and form a new apolitical government over the coming few weeks to lead the country until the 2014 elections as agreed by the roadmap.

15:08 GMT

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A caretaker Tunisian prime minister is expected to be named today, as negotiations between the main Tunisian labor union, the ruling troika and opposition parties continue in Tunis.

Tunisia is currently running a national dialogue to form a technocratic caretaker administration until new elections can be held, after the main Tunisian labor union (UGTT) brokered a deal between the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party and opposition parties that would remove the ruling troika from power.

According to the transitional roadmap agreed to secure the Islamist Ennahda Party’s removal from power, the deadline for all sides to jointly name a caretaker prime minister is today, December 14.

Zyad Al-Adhari, a spokesperson for Ennahda, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the party is determined to reach a national consensus on the next prime minister before the end of the National Dialogue.”

He added that he does not expect the dialogue to fail and that a consensus will be reached today.

However, national radio station ShemsFM is reporting that the delegates are still considering a shortlist of six names for the position, indicating that there is still much disagreement between the sides about who can form an appropriate, apolitical government.

Although an announcement was made on Thursday that an interim prime minister had been agreed, conflicting media reports seemed to both confirm and deny the candidate’s acceptance of the offer.

But on Friday, Mustapha El-Filali, the alleged consensus candidate told a local radio station: “I have refused the job based on several considerations, but most importantly, because of my age and health issues.”

Filali, 92, denied that any political faction had pressured him into either accepting or rejecting the position. He called on the parties involved in the national dialogue to find a younger candidate, who he said would be better suited to leading the country through this transition period.

Two of the three ruling parties, Ennahda and Ettakatol, reiterated their support yesterday for Ahmed El-Mestiri as the next prime minister. Mestiri, 88, was last involved in Tunisian politics in the 1980s, as a member of the opposition to President Habib Bourguiba.

Mestiri’s candidacy is supported by 115 of the 217 members of the National Constituent Assembly, including by members of the Al-Joumhouri Party, which is affiliated with the opposition.

But Nidaa Tounes, one of the leading opposition parties and a signatory to the transitional roadmap agreed with Ennahda, is opposed to Mestiri’s candidacy.

It is hoped that this transition phase will resolve the serious political crisis facing Tunisia. Progress towards improving the political, economic and security situation in the North African country has come to a near-complete standstill amid the political stalemate, mounting deficit, and the assassination of two leading opposition figures earlier this year.