x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'Do not dream of another El Sisi', Tunisia leader warns opposition

Islamist leader calls for talks to avoid a repeat of the Egypt crisis.

Ennahda party chairman Rached Ghannouchi criticised the massacre committed against supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.
Ennahda party chairman Rached Ghannouchi criticised the massacre committed against supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

TUNIS // The chairman of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party rejected opposition demands for a non-party government yesterday, saying the experience of Egypt should prompt parties to engage in further talks to resolve the country's crisis.

Rached Ghannouchi, the Ennahda party chairman, said he could accept the creation of a national unity government if all political parties were represented, but a cabinet of technicians could not manage the country's "delicate situation".

Speaking a day after his deputy party leader joined the growing call for non-party rule, and Egypt's military cracked down on backers of the deposed Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, Mr Ghannouchi warned the opposition not to speculate about a military coup.

His decision seemed likely to disappoint opposition parties and the powerful UGTT union federation aligned with them.

The opposition parties had said they would negotiate with Ennahda only after it dissolved its Islamist-led government.

"We refuse a non-partisan government because this type of government could not manage the delicate situation of the country," said Mr Ghannouchi.

"The government needs a lot of time to manage the political and economic issues.

"Events in Egypt should push us towards dialogue," he added, calling Wednesday's bloody crackdown, during which at least 525 people were killed, "a failure for democracy in Egypt".

"Those who want another El Sisi in Tunisia," he said, referring to Egyptian military leader, Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi, "should not continue to dream about that".

Mr Ghannouchi admitted that the Ennahda government in Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions, had failed to improve the economy and handle other problems.

"We've made mistakes, but that doesn't merit a coup d'etat," he said.

Tunisia faces its deepest crisis since its popular revolution overthrew the autocratic leader, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in January 2011.

A constituent assembly elected to draw up a new constitution within a year has still not finished its work, and jihadi militants have stepped up attacks in an attempt to destabilise the government.

While his party deputy, Hamadi Jebali, has called for elections within six months, Mr Ghannouchi said the constituent assembly should first resume its work.

"The constituent assembly should reopen quickly to finish the constitution and then proceed to elections," he said.