The national dialogue is part of a broad agreement to end the political crisis that has engulfed the North African state since the assassination of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi—the second assassination of a senior opposition figure in less than a year—ignited nationwide anti-government protests.
The ruling Islamist Ennahda party has agreed its government will resign after talks to appoint a technocratic, non-partisan interim government to serve until elections can be held. The national dialogue is also set to discuss when elections are to take place and to appoint an electoral commission to oversee the polling process.
“The train of this crisis is on the tracks, and we are now on the way to finishing our transition to elections,” Ennahda party chairman Rachid Ghannouchi told reporters on Friday.
The national dialogue had initially been postponed amid opposition concerns regarding the ruling Islamist party’s true intentions. Tunisia’s opposition parties refused to attend the planned sessions earlier this week following an emergency cabinet meeting in which embattled Prime Minister Laarayedh said that his government was committed to resigning “in principle.”
“We will not submit to anyone except the interests of the country,” he added.
The speech was poorly received by Tunisia’s opposition, who described Laarayedh’s stance as “ambiguous” and called for him to sign a pledge starting explicitly that he and his government will step down after the three-week national dialogue has concluded.
The country’s security situation has deteriorated rapidly due to the ongoing political crisis. Earlier this week, suspected Salafist gunmen clashed with Tunisian security forces in the country’s central Sidi Bouzid region, the cradle of the Arab Spring, leaving at least eight security officers dead. Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki has announced three days of national mourning in response to the deaths.
Thousands of Tunisians marched through Tunis on Wednesday calling for the government’s ouster, and a car bomb was discovered in the capital on Thursday. Suspected Islamist militants exchanged gunfire with police on Friday, killing at least one person.