‘Week of departure’ begins in Tunisia amid political stalemate
Tunisia's opposition sought to mobilise a mass protest Saturday to kick off a week of demonstrations aimed at ousting the Islamist-led government, one month after a politician was assassinated.
The planned protest comes amid political turmoil in nearby Egypt, where the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last month after millions of protesters took to the streets demanding his departure.
It is due to take place at 1700 GMT outside the national assembly in Tunis, where tens of thousands turned out for similar protests earlier this month and where an evening concert is planned by artists opposed to the ruling Islamist Ennahda party.
The opposition National Salvation Front is hoping the demonstration will trigger a week of protests across the country that will force Ennahda's resignation, with the protests since Mohamed Brahmi's murder concentrated in the capital.
Brahmi was the second opposition politician to be assassinated in six months.
The attack plunged the country into a fresh political crisis, sparking opposition calls for the ouster of the Ennahda-led coalition and the formation of a non-political administration.
Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union has been mediating between the opposition group and the Islamists to break the deadlock, but the talks have made little progress. The NSF insisted on Friday that negotiations prior to the government's resignation were a "waste of time."
Ennahda indicated on Thursday, for the first time since the start of the crisis, that it might agree to step down, having previously rejected the opposition's demands.
But the Islamists, who the largest share of votes in October 2011 elections, stressed that a "national dialogue" bringing together supporters and opponents of the ruling coalition needed to take place first.
"For Ennahda, a government of technocrats will destabilise the state. For the opposition, the state has been destabilised enough already," Tunisian daily Le Temps concluded in an editorial on Saturday, entitled: "Political stalemate, institutional deadlock."
The UGTT has not given up hope of forging a compromise between the rival factions.
"We hope that we will find a solution responding to the interests of the nation above all, and which satisfies the different parties," said union's secretary general Hocine Abassi, after holding talks with President Moncef Marzouki.
The opposition accuses Ennahda of failing to rein in Tunisia's hardline Salafist movement, who are blamed for murdering Brahmi and Chokri Belaid, another prominent secular politician whose assassination in February brought down the first Islamist-led coalition.
Senior Ennahda members have, for their part, accused the opposition of trying to mirror events in Egypt, saying their demands amount to an attempt to engineer a "coup" like the one that ousted Morsi.