|Mustafa Ben Jaafar, leader of leftist Ettakatol party, is under consideration for president [Reuters]|
The Islamist-led coalition formed after last month’s Tunisian election will unveil a government within days and retain the serving defence minister, party officials said.
Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” uprisings when it toppled its president this year. Since then it has made a relatively smooth transition to democracy, defying predictions that the rise of Islamists would cause conflict.
The North African country last month elected an assembly which will draft a new constitution and set new elections. The chamber will be dominated by the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party, in coalition with two secularist parties.
“The new government will be announced in a few days and not a few weeks,” Samir Dillou, a leading figure in Ennahdha, said on Thursday.
“There is an agreement in principle that the defence minister will keep his place.”
Samir Ben Amor, of the Congress for the Republic, a junior coalition partner, confirmed that account of negotiations on the new cabinet and said he expected it would be ready next week.
The current minister, Abdelkrim Zbidi, joined the cabinet on January 27, after the interim government was reshuffled.
Many Tunisians respect Zbidi for the military’s role in helping keep order on the streets while staying out of politics in the months that followed the January 14 revolution, which forced then-President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Many Tunisians respect Zbidi for the military’s role in helping keep order on the streets while staying out of politics.
Ennahdha has been keen to send a message of continuity, and has indicated that the finance minister and central bank governor are also likely to keep their posts.
Dillou, a member of Ennahdha’s executive bureau, said negotiations were still under way about other cabinet jobs, and about who will be selected as president.
That is a largely ceremonial post, but the president may be asked to mediate if a conflict emerges between the leading parties in the new assembly.
Dillou said the choice for president was between Moncef Marzouki, head of the Congress for the Republic, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of Ettakatol, the third partner in the coalition.
Single mothers criticised
Meanwhile, Souad Abderrahim, a prominent member of Ennahdha, has stirred controversy over comments she made criticising single mothers.
In an interview on Wednesday with Radio Monté carlo Doualya, an Arab-language French radio station, Abderrahim said Tunisians should not tolerate women “with easy morals” in their soecity.
“I’m ashamed before other Arab countries when I see an Arab-Muslim people trying to excuse these women who have sinned!” she said, in response to a question about whether Ennahdha would consider a law offering financial assistance to struggling single mothers.
“Morally, they don’t have the right to exist!” she added.
Abderrahim is one of the most influential women within the party. She was one of two women that the party nominated to the top of its electoral lists. The fact that she does not wear a hijab has often been highlighted by leading members as a sign of the party’s respect for diversity.
Her comments drew a storm of controversy on social media sites, under the hashtag #Souad.