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TUNIS: Tunisian political parties met yesterday for crisis talks on the contents and calendar for adopting a new constitution, which were attended by the Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and President Moncef Marzouki.
The meeting, called by Tunisia’s main trade union, the UGTT, gathered more than 40 political groups in a bid to resolve the impasse over drafting the text by the National Constituent Assembly, but was boycotted by two key parties.
“The tensions have multiplied; the differences have sharpened” since the revolution that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali early last year, UGTT secretary general Houcine Abessi was quoted as saying in Tunisian daily La Presse.
“We thought that a force would emerge and launch an initiative that would reduce those tensions and bring the protagonists to the negotiating table,” he added.
Reflecting ongoing political tensions, two of the ruling coalition’s three parties — Jebali’s Islamist party Ennahda and Marzouki’s centre-left Congress for the Republic — decided on Monday to boycott the meeting.
They justified their non-attendance by the presence of Call of Tunisia, an increasingly popular party set up in June by Beji Caid Essebsi.
A senior official in the first years of Ben Ali’s rule, Essebsi steered Tunisia as interim premier in the aftermath of the revolution, and the ruling allies accuse him of regrouping former regime officials and seeking to undermine the government.
Jebali and Marzouki both participated in Tuesday’s “national dialogue,” despite their parties’ decision to boycott the event.
Before leaving, the president expressed his support for the UGTT’s initiative, which he said helped to “guarantee the rights and freedoms” of Tunisians and prevent “the return of tyranny.”
The talks follow an announcement by the coalition’s three parties on Sunday that they had struck a compromise on the nature of the country’s future political system, and setting June 23 as the date for presidential and parliamentary polls.
The deal on the constitution must be approved by a two-thirds majority of MPs in the Assembly, Tunisia’s interim parliament.