The chairman of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party rejected opposition demands for a non-party government on Thursday and said the experience of Egypt should prompt parties to engage in more dialogue to resolve the country’s crisis.
Al-Nahda party chairman Rached Ghannouchi 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 delicate situation in the country.”
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 deposed Islamist President Mohammed Mursi, he warned the opposition not to speculate about a military coup.
Ghannouchi’s decision seemed likely to disappoint opposition parties and the powerful UGTT union federation aligned with them. The opposition parties have said they would negotiate with al-Nahda only after it dissolves its Islamist-led government.
“We refuse a non-partisan government because this type of government could not manage the delicate situation of the country,” Ghannouchi told journalists. “The government needs a lot of time to manage the political and economic issues.”
“Events in Egypt should push us towards dialogue,” he said, calling Wednesday’s bloody crackdown – in which at least 525 people were killed – “a failure for democracy in Egypt.”
“Those who want another al-Sisi in Tunisia,” he said, referring to Egyptian military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, “should not continue to dream about that.”
Ghannouchi admitted that the al-Nahda government in Tunisia had not succeeded in improving the economy and handling other problems.
“We’ve made mistakes, but that doesn’t merit a coup d’etat,” he said.
In contrast to Egypt, Tunisia’s armed forces do not have a large, lucrative stake in the economy and have not traditionally intervened in politics. Few observers expect Tunisia’s military to step in to resolve the current crisis.
Tunisia faces its deepest crisis since its popular revolution overthrew autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.
An assembly elected to draw up a new constitution within a year has still not finished its work and jihadi militants have stepped up attacks to destabilize the government.
A dozen opposition parties formed a Salvation Front to demand the resignation of the al-Nahda government after the assassination of an opposition leader in July, the second such killing this year by suspected jihadi militants.
While his party deputy Hamadi Jebali has called for elections within six months, 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.