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Tunisian opposition supporters mass as national assembly is suspended

7th Aug 2013

Opposition supporters have gathered in Tunis for the largest protests there since the start of the latest political crisis, which followed a politician’s assassination. The national assembly has suspended its work.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tunis late on Tuesday – the largest protest in recent weeks – to demand the downfall of the Islamist government.

“The people want the fall of the regime,” crowds crammed into Bardo Square shouted. The same slogan was popularized by protesters in 2011 when Tunisians ousted the then-president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The protest marked the six-month anniversary of the assassination of the leftist politician Chokri Belaid – one of two government opponents to be shot dead this year. His fellow leftist Mohamed Brahmi was shot and killed on July 25 this year.

Opponents of the government blame Islamists militants for the assassinations of Belaid and Brahmi. However, they claim that members of the moderate ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, were complicit in the killings.

Late on Tuesday, Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly suspended its work in light of political differences and the unrest that has seen two opposition leaders assassinated.

Close to drafting constitution

As president of the assembly, Mustapha Ben Jaafar said that the body’s work would stop until discussions could be held between the government and the opposition.

“I call on everybody to take part in dialogue,” said Ben Jaafar, whose secular, social democratic Ettakatol party has called for a new government team to be formed, but which has not yet resigned from the cabinet.

The delegates were thought to be just weeks away from finishing a draft constitution and electoral law to help foster a democratic era in Tunisia and usher in new elections.

Much of the secular opposition has been refusing to hold talks with the government unless it stands down. The Ennahda Party has ruled out any dialogue being conditional on a dissolution of the government that it leads. Ennahda was the winner of the country’s first elections in the post-Ben Ali era, in late 2011.

rc/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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Sectarianism in the Middle East and its rise in the UK, Standpoint, Sahar TV. Interview 29 May 2013 and aired on 12 June 2013

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