Tunisia’s ruling party and opposition parties have suspended talks over forming a new caretaker government to end the country’s political crisis after the two sides failed to agree on naming a prime minister.
It was not clear when negotiations would restart, but the suspension was a blow to hopes of a quick end to deadlock in a country whose 2011 uprising inspired the “Arab Spring” revolts across the region.
Tunisia’s Islamist-led government has already agreed to step down later this month to make way for a temporary administration that will govern until elections, but the two sides remain deeply split over details of their agreement.
Ennahda wants to leave by the door and come back in through the window.
“They were unable to reach a consensus over the prime minister. The dialogue has been suspended until there is solid ground for negotiations,” said Hussein Abassi, leader of the powerful UGTT union that brokered the talks.
He said the union may propose names for the premier if the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda and the opposition were unable to reach agreement.
Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi said the impasse would not last long, but the opposition accused his party of political games in an attempt to hang on to power.
“Ennahda wants to leave by the door and come back in through the window,” said Hamma Hammami, an opposition party leader.
Since an uprising ousted autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali nearly three years ago, Tunisia has struggled with a widening division over the role of Islam in the country’s politics.
But the assassination of two secular opposition leaders this year by armed groups sparked protests by opposition parties who demanded Ennahda resign, in part because it was too soft on those pushing for an Islamic state.
Ennahda and the opposition must still negotiate over a date for new elections and the composition of an electoral board and finish work on the country’s new constitution before Ennahda steps down later this month.