Tunisia’s Islamist-opposition consensus search fails, secularists threaten protests

September 5, 2013

(An anti-government protester shouts slogans as others wave flags and signs during a demonstration in Tunis August 24, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)

Tunisia’s secular opposition threatened on Wednesday to launch more mass protests to force the Islamist-led government to step down, saying negotiations to end a political stand-off had failed.

Hamma Hammami, a senior leader in a coalition of over a dozen secular opposition parties agitating for new elections, blamed the Islamist Ennahda party heading the government coalition for the collapse of two weeks of mediated talks.

The talks aimed to lead to new polls that analysts say the unpopular Ennahda would probably lose, ending Tunis’s Islamist experiment without the violence seen in Egypt after the army overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi in July.

“Ennahda is responsible for the failure of the negotiations because it has shown it does not want to leave power despite the crisis that has rocked the country,” Hammami told journalists after a meeting with Hussein Abassi, head of the powerful UGTT trade union federation mediating the talks.

“The opposition will launch a major protest campaign from Saturday to force the government to step down”, he added.

Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring revolts, has been in crisis since late July after the second assassination this year of a secular politician by suspected Islamist radicals prompted the opposition to demand the government quit immediately.

Read the full story by Tarek Amara here.

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