TUNIS: The Tunisian press voiced scepticism yesterday on the eve of crisis talks between ruling Islamists and their secular rivals following the July assassination of a prominent opposition MP.
The rival sides have been bitterly divided in the two months since Mohamed Brahmi’s murder, with secularists accusing the moderate Islamist party Ennahda party of failing to curb extremists in the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring. “Tunisians are hanging on the words of political actors, protagonists in a national dialogue... Will this dialogue lead to a saving solution?” asked the francophone daily Le Quotidien. “It’s like watching a Mexican soap opera, but without the romance,” it quipped of the two-month-long standoff.
The national dialogue is set to begin at 0800 GMT at the Palais des Congres on Saturday, with President Moncef Marzouki, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh and parliamentary speaker Mustafa Ben Jaafar attending.
In line with a roadmap drafted by mediators, the Ennahda-led government must agree to resign once a consensus has been reached on the composition of an apolitical cabinet, one of the mediators said.
The dialogue “represents the last hope of escaping this impasse”, read an editorial in the Arabic-language Maghreb, which urged politicians to “set aside their partisan interests and hoist the flag of the nation”.
Earlier this week, Ennahda and the secular opposition agreed to a blueprint for talks drafted by the country’s main trade union, the UGTT, the employers’ organisation Utica, the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the bar association.
The roadmap sets a three-week deadline to form a cabinet of independents to replace the government, after the launch of a dialogue with opposition parties. It also sets a four-week deadline for adopting a new electoral law, announcing a timetable for fresh elections and completing a long-delayed draft constitution.
But unlike in Egypt, where Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the army in July following mass protests against his rule, Tunisia’s Islamists have said they will step down when certain conditions are met.AFP