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Tunisia's Ennahda leader offers referendum

Rachid Ghannouchi says he is ready for vote on changes to function of some state institutions to end political crisis.

Last Modified: 06 Aug 2013 06:57
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Ghannouchi says his party is 'open to bringing opposition forces into coalition government' [AP]

Tunisia's ruling Ennahda party leader Rachid Ghannouchi has raised the prospect of a referendum as a
way out of the country's political crisis, but has also warned against the opposition’s efforts to topple the government.

Ghannouchi raised the prospect of a referendum on the functioning of some state institutions in an interview with the Reuters news agency on Monday. 

We are open to bringing opposition forces into coalition government. All options are on the table.

Rachid Ghannouchi,
Leader of ruling Ennahda party

"If they [opposition] are insistent on terminating the transitional process, we say to them, come, let's have a popular referendum," the 72-year-old leader said in the interview. "They raised their demands so high and now they're stuck in a tree."

Tunisia is facing its worst political crisis since protesters toppled former ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, an uprising that later sparked a wave of "Arab Spring" revolts across the region. 

"It's a fact that in Tunisia there are two 'streets'," Ghannouchi said, referring to demonstrations against the ruling cabinet following Ennahda claims that 200,000 people rallied on Saturday in support of the party.

That demonstration, however, followed spate of protests since the assassination in February of opposition politician Chokri Belaid in a crisis further stoked by the killing of opposition member of parliament Mohamed Brahmi, who was shot dead outside his home late last month.
 
A coalition of opposition parties has called for a rally on Tuesday to press for their demand that the Ennahda-led transitional government be dissolved and a new constituent assembly be formed.

So far both the opposition and Ennahda have shown firmness in their positions, though Ghannouchi said he was hopeful a solution to the deadlock would come soon.

"We are open to bringing opposition forces into coalition government. All options are on the table. Anything is possible," he said.

Ghannouchi further said he was open to most modifications through talks without preconditions from the opposition and even the controversial 'Isolation Law', which aims to block former Ben Ali officials from political life for an unspecified time.

Ennahda put on a show of force this weekend with more than 100,000 crowding into the central Qasbah Square on Saturday in one of the biggest demonstrations in the country since the 2011 revolution.

That has surely bolstered his moderate Islamist party's confidence in the face off against the opposition.

"The street cannot change an elected government, only a dictatorial one ... We'll accept correcting the transition path, but we won't accept an absurd and nihilistic one," said Ghannouchi.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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