World Bulletin / News Desk
Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh unveiled a new Islamist-led coalition government on Friday that he said would serve only until an election is held before the end of the year.
The new government is led by the Islamist Ennahda party, backed by the centre-left Ettakatol and the secular Congress for the Republic led by President Moncef Marzouki - the same parties that were in the previous cabinet.
Larayedh replaced Hamadi Jebali, who resigned following the assassination of secular politician Chokri Belaid on Feb. 6, which provoked the worst unrest in Tunisia since the uprising that overthrew President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.
Ennahda has ceded control of several key ministries to independents in the new cabinet, with career diplomat Othman Jarandi named as foreign minister, Lotfi Ben Jedou interior minister and Rachid Sabbagh defence minister.
Ennahda's coalition partners - the centre-left Ettakatol and President Moncef Marzouki's secular Congress for the Republic (CPR) - are the same parties as in the previous government.
"Our country needs national unity," Larayedh told a news conference, saying his government would not last beyond this year, with elections likely to be held in October or November.
Ennahda has ceded control of important ministries to independents in the new cabinet: career diplomat Othman Jarandi was named as foreign minister; Lotfi Ben Jedou interior minister; Rachid Sabbagh defence minister; and Nadhir Ben Ammou justice minister.
Elyess Fakhfakh of Ettakatol, an economist, keeps the finance portfolio.
Jarandi, a former ambassador to the United Nations, has strong ties with international bodies and the West.
Ben Jedou and Sabbagh are both judges. Ben Jedou took part in an investigation into the killing of dozens of young men during the "Jasmine Revolution" that toppled Ben Ali and inspired revolts against autocrats around the Arab world. Ben Ammou is a law professor.
Twelve members of Jebali's cabinet stay on, including Agriculture Minister Mohamed Ben Salem and Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou, who are both members of Ennahda, as well as Culture Minister Mehdi Mabrouk, an independent.
Ennahda's leader Rached Ghannouchi told Reuters last month that any stable government in Tunisia must be a coalition between moderate Islamists and moderate secularists.
Ennahda, Ettakatol and CPR have governed in coalition since December 2011, following Tunisia's first free election for a 217-seat National Constituent Assembly, which is supposed to draft a new constitution for the post-Ben Ali era.
Political analysts said the appointment of independents to important ministries could reduce tensions between Islamists and secularists as elections approached.
"The appointments will reassure the public and politicians and could lead to fewer disputes," Chedli Ben Rhouma of Maghreb newspaper told Reuters.
Political turmoil in recent weeks has set back talks with the International Monetary Fund on a $1.78 billion loan and has prompted Standard and Poor's to lower its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating of Tunisia.
The government raised most fuel prices this week as part of a drive to cut subsidies and reduce a forecast 2013 budget deficit of 6 percent of gross domestic product.
The central bank warned last week that continuing political crisis would harm the economy, which relies heavily on tourism.
Last Mod: 09 Mart 2013, 10:13