- Special Pages
TUNIS: Tunisia’s leaders yesterday sought to defuse political tensions as the country marked a year since the election of the National Constituent Assembly, amid divisions and violence that have muted the celebrations.
“We can build nothing on the basis of hate and the challenging of others,” President Moncef Marzouki told a special session of Tunisia’s interim parliament, calling on the political parties to stop “demonising” each other.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali urged the different political factions to assume their “historic responsibility” and not “push the situation towards crisis, escalation and violence.”
The anniversary of Tunisia’s historic elections comes at a time of heightened tensions between the coalition government, led by Jebali’s Islamist party Ennahda, and the opposition.
Critics have attacked the Islamists for failing to improve living standards since the revolution that ousted former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, for a deteriorating security situation and for curbing civil liberties.
Numerous opposition MPs boycotted the parliamentary session in protest at what they say are the authoritarian tendencies of the ruling Islamists.
Tunisia’s main trade union, the UGTT, tried last week to organise a “national dialogue,” inviting political parties to cooperate in thrashing out the details of the delayed new constitution, held up by disagreement over the future political system.
But Ennahda and Marzouki’s Congress for the Republic boycotted the meeting, which ended with those parties that did attend rejecting a government proposal to hold elections in June, and no agreement on a timetable for adopting the new constitution.
Hundreds of pro- and anti-government protesters gathered outside the assembly yesterday shouting slogans, with activists from different opposition groups calling for a “new revolution.” The more numerous Ennahda supporters denounced opposition party leader and former premier Beji Caid Essebsi, who they see as a remnant of the ousted regime.
Essebsi’s Call of Tunisia party has argued that the government loses its legitimacy on October 23, a year after the assembly’s election, because it was committed to drafting a new constitution within 12 months. “The voices that speak about the end of the government’s legitimacy are the voices of chaos,” Ennahda’s veteran leader Rached Ghannouchi said, after attending the parliamentary session. AFP