Ennahda faces choice of ‘painful’ concessions or escalation of Tunisia crisis

Intransigence of Ennahda raises tensions

TUNIS - Tunisia's powerful labour union urged the country's Islamist-led government on Friday to make “painful” concessions to end a deadlock over its rule after a failure in talks with opposition.
Tunisia has been caught up in turmoil since late July after the second assassination of an opposition politician by suspected Islamist militants, which triggered mass protests and demands that the government step down.
The Tunisian General Labour Union or UGTT, a nation-wide federation using its heft to push parties to a compromise, has proposed that the government steps down and for a caretaker cabinet to hold new polls.
The ruling Islamist Ennahda party that heads the coalition government as well as parties opposing it failed to reach an agreement on the transition path, making the talks dead this week.
“There is a new proposal for the opposition and the coalition to get out of this crisis,” Hussein Abassi, leader of the UGTT, said. “The coalition has to make some painful concessions for the good of the country.”
Abd Essater Ben Moussa, president of a human rights organisation also part of the negotiations, said the proposal would have a strict timeline and talks could restart next week.
Ennahda and its two coalition partners have said they would only be ready to step down after a month and said it wanted time for a commission to finish work on drafting a new constitution.
The opposition coalition, called the Salvation Front, united after the murder of prominent opposition politician Mohammad Brahmi in July, six months after another leftist leader has been assassinated .
The country has been into its worst crisis since the ouster of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, with mass protests and the decision by an assembly writing the new constitution to suspend its work.
Tunisia ‘s current government was only meant to run affairs during a one-year transition, with the unrest pushing away the roadmap for the new constitution and a caretaker cabinet to oversee voting for a fully democratic parliament.