Tunisia Islamists ready to hand over power and run in spring election

October 12, 2013

(Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, speaks during an interview with a Reuters journalist in Tunis August 5, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi )

A black and white photograph on Rached Ghannouchi’s desk shows him as a young activist proclaiming the birth of a Tunisian Islamist movement that three decades later would win the first elections after the Arab uprisings.

But having inspired Islamists across the Middle East by rising to power following Tunisia’s 2011 popular revolution, Ghannouchi’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party now finds itself within weeks of voluntarily stepping down.

Ennahda last week agreed its coalition government would resign, but only after negotiations with secular opposition parties to establish a temporary, non-party government to run the country until new elections.

Ghannouchi, the party’s chairman, said in an interview that the ballot could be held early next year, and that Ennahda had not necessarily lost the chance to lead one of the Muslim world’s most secular countries with strong ties to Europe.

“With regard to the election, we want it as quickly as possible. But realistically we are talking about spring next year,” the soft-spoken 72-year-old said.

“The Tunisian people will decide at the elections whether this government has failed or not.”

Read the full story by Patrick Markey here.

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