Interview -Tunisian Islamists say they’re excluded, call for unity govt.

February 3, 2011

(Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis February 3, 2011/Louafi Larbi )

Tunisia’s Islamists have been shut out of the interim government, Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi said, calling for a cabinet that brings together all parties and for the dismantling of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s police state. Banned for over 20 years, his Ennahda (Arab for “Renaissance”) party applied this week for a license and will take part in Tunisia’s first free elections, though Ghannouchi himself has pledged not to run for any office.

“No one invited us and no one consulted us over the make-up of this government… We don’t know who made up this government, who chose these people, what their authority is, who they answer to,” Ghannouchi told Reuters in an interview. “We called for a government of national alliance comprised of opposition parties and civil society organisations such as the labour union, lawyers and rights groups, a government that… is not imposed like this.”

Tunisia has had two changes of government since the revolt that toppled Ben Ali after 23 years of autocratic rule. The first line-up, announced days after Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, retained many ministers from his former ruling party and failed to convince protesters calling for more sweeping change.

A new lineup announced on Jan. 27 removed most members of the former ruling RCD but retained the prime minister, who had served under Ben Ali. It includes two opposition politicians and excludes Ennahda and several secular opponents of Ben Ali.

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(Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi (C, with red scarf) welcomed by supporters upon his arrival in Tunis from exile in London on January 30, 2011/Louafi Larbi )

Ghannouchi said Ben Ali’s RCD was already “dead” but that his vast network of spies, police and internal security was still operating in Tunisia and working against the revolution. “There is another state that still exists, this is the state of political security and this must be dismantled; its machine of repression, its laws, its institutions and its culture must be dismantled to achieve a pluralist democracy,” he said.

“We do not need a presidential system that concentrates power… We need a parliamentary system that spreads power widely, leaving the president as a symbolic head of state.”

Read the full interview by Lin Noueihed here.

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[…] the RCD dominated legislative body.  Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, has said that the group is being shut out of the interim government.  Ghannouchi called for a more […]

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