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Outgoing Tunisian premier says he will not contest future elections
BBC Monitoring Middle East
February 19, 2013

Tunisia`s Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali speaks as he announces his resignation during a news conference in Tunis February 19, 2013. Jebali resigned on Tuesday after his attempt to form a government of technocrats and end a political crisis failed. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

The Tunisian interim prime minister has said he had tendered his resignation to the country`s interim president. In a statement broadcast live by the state-run National Tunisian TV and privately-owned Nessma TV, Hammadi Jebali said his failure to muster support for his initiative to form a non-partisan government of technocrats was the reason behind his resignation. He said he would not stand in future elections and he urged the future government to devote its efforts to serving the country and people. He also called for the drafting of a constitution and the fixing of elections date. The following is the text of the statement by Jebali broadcast by Tunisian TV on 19 February: Sub-headings are inserted editorially:

(Jebali in progress): To our people, women men and youths. In the life of human beings and nations there is an historic and a moment of truth.

Perhaps you have all followed the efforts which have been made to form a neutral government of national competencies [government of technocrats]. This came in difficult circumstances during which the country - God forbid - was heading towards irrupting into violence. The aim of this initiative was to spare our country the misfortunes of suffering and violence.

Neutral government

The objective behind this initiative was clear: to form a neutral government which would keep its distance from political strife and political parties` conflicts and which would be fully devoted to implementing a pragmatic programme and to serving people with clear priorities.

These priorities include employment, security, prices and citizens` purchasing power - particularly the poor - regional development and a balance between regions. It is pragmatic as I have said, but which also [should be implemented] in a limited deadline. This deadline would end with the election date. Therefore, in order to sustain the efforts of this government, we must set a deadline for the elections.

This was the initiative which I presented to the public opinion, particularly to the political parties. In the two meetings with the political parties, I asked them to support this initiative. I was convinced and I continue to be convinced that it is the best way to spare our country political strife and conflict.

I have meet leaders of all political parties and, thanks be to God, it was a great opportunity to meet them all on two occasions and to debate the issue. In the end, however, it was clear that the initiative did not receive political backing. When I say political backing, I mean the backing of the majority in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). There is no government without (the support of the) a majority. Therefore, I quickly realized that the initiative was unlikely to succeed.

Resignation to honour pledge

I repeat that I do not hold any party responsible and I do not accuse any party [for the failure of the initiative]. We are not here to exchange accusations, enough exchange of accusations and enough altercation.

Regrettably, our people have had enough of this kind of scenes [conflicts]. I have promised and pledged that if this initiative did not succeed I would resign from the post of prime minister. This is what I have done now when I met the president of the republic. However, I would like to make one thing clear:

First I said [I resigned] in order to honour my pledge. Our people are now in search of credibility. However, they feel that they are let down by their political elite. We must re-establish our credibility. This is a move to regain trust not only in the government but also in political leaders.

This is a test for all political parties. My resignation does not mean I will shirk my duty. This morning I held a meeting with the council of ministers and I urged the ministers and secretaries of state not shirk our duties. We will continue to work harder. We will work for the sake of the state`s continuity as it continued to exist during the revolution.

As for the interests of citizens - and this is our duty and not a favour for the people - I told them [ministers] we need to be more committed and to work harder, God willing. So we reassure our people that there will be no political vacuum or a vacuum of state institutions at all levels.

Need to serve country, people

I take this opportunity to urge all state officials to be more committed to serve our country and the interests of our people. On this occasion, I also urge all the sons of our people to be more committed to shoulder their responsibilities and carry out their duties wherever they are.

There will be no vacuum in taking up responsibilities. The resignation of the prime minister and the failure of this initiative do not mean the failure of Tunisia or the failure of the revolution, God willing.

For all these reasons - as the messenger of God may God`s prayers and peace be upon him advised us: When the time comes and one of you has a palm tree seed in his hand let him plant it. That means he needs to complete his work. The time has not come with the resignation of the government or with any other thing.

Therefore this is both a call and a fulfilment of a responsibility. This is to honour my pledge with the citizens when I said I would resign if my initiative fails. The second commitment is greater and more important. It was when we took the oath in the presence of God Almighty to protect the interests of our country and to work for our country to the end.

Not to stand in future elections

Perhaps now some will wonder whether I am going to be one of the candidates to form a new government! I am still convinced that the initiative to form a government of national competencies is right. But I also continue to honour my pledge to serve my people, but only with the condition to serve the people.

Any other alternative and any other initiative, whether by the coalition or others, will not satisfy the condition of the success of the experience. I mean clearly, and without going into details, that the government will be in the service of its people, will shun political strife and will devote all its efforts to the service of all citizens. The government should have a clear programme, a political platform which will unite all Tunisians, an inclusive national dialogue and, most importantly, must fix an election date.

Need to fix elections dates

I will not be involved in another experience in which elections` dates are not clearly fixed in advance. The forming of a government is not what is important for now. What is important is to have a clear vision for our people, for businessmen and for domestic and international public opinion on when we will hold these elections, when we will draft a constitution and organize elections.

Even if it is a coalition, the government must be the government of all Tunisians. It must serve and defend all Tunisians. It must protect the freedom of Tunisians, their right to be involved in political activity and their right of assembly. The state must assume its responsibility in ensuring their security and in ensuring the freedom of all Tunisian, men and women. It must not delegate its role to any organization, committee or any other grouping.

I will not say these are my conditions, but they are my wishes because our work is a contact and the contact involves at least two sides. Therefore I am not asking for anything for myself but for my people.

I repeat that I will not file my candidacy in the future elections and will not seek an official post whatsoever. I hope that will be the same for all those who are working with me. My only request, even if I accept something else - is clarity, the commitment of everyone and the backing of this government by everyone for the sake of our country and revolution.

Long live free and secure Tunisia! Long live hope in the hearts of its people, the hope to see Tunisia get out of this phase soon and to work together to respond to the aspirations of the revolution for freedom and dignity! I only succeed with the help of God. God`s peace, compassion and blessing be upon you! Thank you.

Source: National Tunisian TV, Tunis, in Arabic 1756 gmt 19 Feb 13

© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Tunisian Ennahdha leader opposed to technocrat government
BBC Monitoring Middle East
February 19, 2013

Rached Ghannouchi (L), leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, Tunisia`s main Islamist political party, speaks during a demonstration in Tunis February 16, 2013. In a speech to his supporters on Saturday, Ghannouchi said that the exclusion of Ennahda from government would threaten the national unity. REUTERS/Anis Mili

Text of report by Al-Manji al-Su`aydani in Tunis and Nadyah al-Turki in London entitled: “Ghannouchi tells Al-Sharq al-Awsat the relinquishment of power by Ennahdha and its partners in favour of a government of technocrats amounts to a civilian coup; scores of thousands of demonstrators organize marches in the streets of Tunis under the slogan of national unity and support for legitimacy” in Saudi-owned leading pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat website on 17 February

Shaykh Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda Movement, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat yesterday: “Ennahda will not relinquish power as long as the people are renewing their trust in it. We consider the people`s confidence as a trust; we should uphold this trust and not abandon it”.

In remarks over the telephone, he added: “The relinquishment of power by Ennahdha and its partners in favour of a government of technocrats would be a civilian coup. As Tunisians, we give thanks to God that our military institutions are republican and democratic. They are committed to their duty to protect the homeland and they do not interfere in politics. That is why we have called on the brother prime minister to accept the option of the movement and its partners, that is, a national coalition government.”

Ghannouchi went on to say: “The Ennahdha Movement has agreed with a number of parties, including the Congress for the Republic, the Wafa Movement, and the Freedom and Dignity Bloc and is negotiating with other blocs to form a broad-based national coalition government. This means there is no justification to exclude those who were elected in favour of non-elected appointees. We expect the prime minister to go back on his stand.”

On the huge marches in Tunis today in “support of legitimacy” and to renew allegiance to Ennahdha, the movement`s leader said: “The people need backing for legitimacy, particularly since some people have called for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (the parliament) and then came the call to dissolve the government; the revolution and legitimacy are threatened.”

On remarks made by Abdelfattah Moro, the deputy leader of the Ennahdha Movement, Ghannouchi said: “Shaykh Moro responded to what had been published and put it in context. I enjoy an old and fraternal relationship with him that cannot be shaken by transient remarks.” Ghannouchi emphasized that people outside Tunisia should know that, despite the events and developments in the political scene in Tunisia, the country is well.

He said: “I wish to reassure our friends -individuals, groups, and governments -that Tunisia`s revolution is well and is proceeding towards its goals of freedom and development based on national unity and the line of the path of the revolution. We give thanks to God and pray that Tunisia will remain a distinctive touristic country. Anyone who comes to Tunisia sees that life is prosperous here.” Ghannouchi went on to say: “The assassination of Chokri Belaid, may God rest his soul in peace, is painful and alien to the nature and character of the Tunisian people. His funeral did not witness any acts of violence. The demonstrations that were staged in Tunis today (yesterday) [ 17 February] were huge but did not witness any manifestations of violence”.

On his part, Abdelfattah Moro, the deputy chairman of the Ennahdha Movement, downplayed the importance of the press statements published in a French newspaper in which he criticized the movement and called on its leaders, including its chairman Ghannouchi, to leave the movement. These statements led to questions on the facts behind the internal differences among the leaders of the movement. In a statement to Al-Sharq al-Awsat yesterday, the member of the committee of “wise men” that was formed by Jebali last week said that his remarks were understood out of context. They were given more importance than they were worth; many people interpreted them according to their whims.

He said: “The primary purpose of my statements was to caution against the seriousness of the situation and the exacerbation of the political and social crisis in Tunisia after the ministerial reshuffle failed and after Prime Minister Hammadi Jebali`s initiative to form a government of technocrats reached a dead end”. Moro likened his statements to a “cry for caution” addressed to the leaders of the Ennahdha movement to quickly take the necessary and required stands in the absence of internal accord between its chairman and its secretary general on the government that may lead to the next stage .

In his statement, Moro said that he asked the Ennahdha movement that is based on a historic assets in the struggle to shoulder its big responsibility and seek to prevent the crisis from aggravating. He also asked the movement to take courageous stands to bring about the wishes of the Tunisian people for security and dignity. He called on the leaders of the Ennahdha movement to assert a strong presence on the political scene and to safeguard its unity so it would not suffer division and fragmentation. He said that such a state of affairs would add a fresh crisis to the current political crisis.

Regarding his call on Rached Ghannouchi to give up the leadership of the Ennahdha movement, Abdelfattah Moro said that his remark was taken out of context. He said that he had called on the movement`s leaders, particularly its representative, Shaykh Rached Ghannouchi, to initiate a conciliatory stand that would reassure the Tunisian people.

Moro added that not taking such a quick and decisive initiative would amount to an abandonment of responsibility under critical circumstances. Moro also said that such circumstances may lead the leadership to step down in favour of a new leadership that can shoulder the responsibility. He added that this does not imply dissatisfaction with the present leadership, but is an urgent call to sense the seriousness of the situation and the difficulties of the political stage. Regarding Ennahdha`s relinquishment of power, Moro said that the aim behind this is that the movement may be forced to leave power in the absence of a national consensus. He denied that the current dispute in Tunisia is because society is divided into secularists and Islamists. He said that the current controversy is between progressive and reactionary currents. He added: “There are many progressive people in the Islamic currents just as there are in the other political currents.” He did not deny that there are always forces that pull back in all political parties, including the Ennahdha movement.

In a show of the extent of popularity of the Islamic Ennahdha movement, movement leader Rached Ghannouchi and Shaykh Elbashir Ben Hasan, a leader of the Salafi current, attended a protest yesterday evening under the slogan of “national unity and support for legitimacy”. According to interior ministry sources, more than 100,000 supporters of the movement flocked to the protest from the early morning hours in Habib Bourguiba Street in the centre of the Tunisian capital. An honorary stage was erected in front of the statue of Tunisian scholar Abd-al-Rahman Bin Khaldun and the organizers equipped the stage with big loudspeakers. The leaders of the Ennahdha movement called for this march last week after the opposition parties called for the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (the parliament) following the assassination of Chokri Belaid, the left politician and secretary general of the Democratic Nationalists Movement (a Marxist-Leninist party).

The demonstrators waved banners saying “There is no god but God” alongside Tunisian and Palestinian flags. They chanted slogans such as “The people want Ennahdha” and “Fortifying the revolution is a duty” and “support for legitimacy is a duty” and “Revolt, people, against the remnants of the dictator”. Several demonstrators carried a banner saying “we want a judiciary and media of technocrats, not a government of technocrats”. Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the movement, delivered a speech to the demonstrators in which he said: “Some sides wish to see our movement broken and in pieces; they are waiting for this day but it will not come”. Several leaders of the opposition parties said that the protest organized by the Ennahdha movement marks political mobilization more than a demonstration of the movement`s strength in light of the growing political and social problems. They accused the Ennahdha movement of adopting a religious discourse and manipulating it once again to gain over various social factions in Tunisia.

On another development, Mohamed Moualej, the leader of the Tunisian League for the Protection of the Revolution, announced his resignation from his position two days ago to devote his time to political activism and to form a party whose name and programme will be announced soon. The same sources said that Halimah Moualej, the spouse of the league`s leader, has also resigned. The new party is expected to include an important number of members of the constituent body of the League for the Protection of the Revolution. The leagues for the protection of the revolution are accused of complicity in acts of “political violence”. The opposition, trade unions, and human rights organizations consider them as “criminal militias” that the Ennahdha movement uses to “settle scores” with its political adversaries. However, the Ennahdha movement has denied such charges on many occasions.

Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, London, in Arabic 0000 gmt 17 Feb 13

Tunisia`s Hamadi Jebali: face of moderate Islam
Agence France Presse
February 19, 2013

Tunisia`s Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who quit on Tuesday after failing in his efforts to form a government of technocrats, emerged from jail under an autocratic regime as a man of compromise.

The assassination on February 6 of secular opposition figure Chokri Belaid pushed Jebali, the Ennahda party`s number two, into a showdown with party hardliners who rally around their chief, Rached Ghannouchi.

The pragmatic 63-year-old premier sprung a surprise by calling for a government of technocrats to be formed as a way out of the political turmoil after violent protests erupted after Belaid`s murder.

Jebali now knows the reality of what it means to be in power; he has exceeded his fears and begun to act like a statesman,” one European observer said at the time.

With his neatly trimmed white beard, thin-framed glasses and the prayer mark of a pious Muslim on his forehead, Jebali has been a main player in Tunisian politics.

He has staked his future on his call for a non-partisan government, winning the support of much of the political class and powerful secular trade unions.

Despite Ennahda`s fury, Jebali threatened to quit on February 16 unless key ministries currently held by Islamists go to independents in his proposed new government.

He pressed on with his efforts to form a non-partisan government, saying the move had to be taken in the national interest, to prevent the country from sliding into “chaos.”

Jebali threw in the towel on Tuesday, however, saying: “I promised and assured that, in the event that my initiative failed, I would resign as head of the government, and that is what I have done.”

A native of the eastern town of Sousse, Jebali is a solar engineer and former journalist who co-founded in 1981 the Islamic Tendency Movement that became Ennahda (Renaissance in Arabic) eight years later.

Sentenced to death in 1987, just before the removal of then president Habib Bourguiba, the founding father of independent Tunisia, he fled to Spain.

In 1989, he returned following the declaration of a general amnesty, and established Ennahda`s newspaper, El Fajr.

Two years later he was sentenced to a year in prison for defamation.

In 1992, as the anti-Islamist repression under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali gathered steam, he was sentenced to another 16 years behind bars.

He served a large part of his sentence in an isolation cell before being pardoned in 2006.

Relaxed and quick to smile, well-dressed and a fluent French speaker, Jebali “has always had good press, is well connected, and has a fat contact book,” notes Sofiene Ben Fahrat, an analyst and writer.

Jebali was a model of reassuring Islam, despite stumbling on occasion, including once when he alarmed some observers with a reference to the “caliphate,” an old system of government based on Islamic sharia law.

He also enjoyed support from abroad, from the Gulf to the United States and Europe, where he used to mobilise political support and funding for the country riven by social and economic troubles.

After the uprising ousted Ben Ali in January 2011, Jebali had travelled to Washington with two other “modernist” party members, holding high-level talks with US representatives in a bid to calm fears.

“He is well known to the Americans,” one diplomat in Tunis said at the time. “He is very calm, self-assured, and expresses himself in a measured fashion. But he is not soft; his years in prison forged a character of steel.”

© Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013 All reproduction and presentation rights reserved.




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