Tunis – Thousands of Tunisians marched through the capital to call for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government.
Chanting “today, today, Ennahdha down today” – a reference to the main party in the government – the protesters marched towards the building housing the constituent assembly, which opposition deputies have boycotted for more than two weeks.
“After the blood, there is no legitimacy for the Ennahdha mafia,” Mongi Rahoui, a National Constituent Assembly member from the leftist Unified Patriotic Democratic, told the crowd.
Chokri Belaid, the former leader of Rahoui’s party, was assassinated in February. A second opposition politician, Mohamed Brahimi, was assassinated on July 25, leading opposition parties to unit against the government.
The protest comes in the midst of the country’s biggest political deadlock since the fall of the former president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in January 2011.
There is a deep distrust on both sides over who will control the state’s institutions, particularly the agency that would oversee the country’s yet-to-be scheduled parliamentary and presidential elections.
The coalition of secularist opposition parties says that the government, led by Ennahdha, is failing to deal with the economic and security situation, and that it is time to appoint a government made up of non-politically aligned technocrats.
Ennahdha, acutely aware of the brutal crackdown on its fellow Islamist movement in Egypt, says it does not trust the opposition and that having won a majority in the constituent assembly in the 2011 elections, it still has legitimacy.
Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh of Ennahdha said on Tuesday that he would not tolerate violence in the protests calling for his government to resign. Opposition politicians have said the protest will be peaceful.
The Tunisian Union General Labour Union is acting as a negotiating party. Ennahdha provisionally accepted the union’s proposal in a meeting on Thursday.
Opposition leaders, however, found the terms offered by Ennahdha to be unacceptable, and insist on the immediate dissolution of the government.
Even within Ennahdha’s base, there are those who are frustrated with what is widely viewed as the party’s appeasing of its ultra-conservative faction.
Kallel Nabil, a devoted Ennahdha supporter whose family was oppressed under the old regime, who says he does not trust any secularist politicians.
No matter what, he said, he is still voting for the Islamist party in the next election, but he told Al Jazeera it was in the party’s interests for its more liberal politicians be given a more influential role.
“[Ennahdha leader Rachid] Ghannouchi is not clear, I say that even as an Ennahdha supporter,” he said outside El Khir Mosque after midday prayer.
“Ghannouchi should take [Habib] Ellouz and [Sadok] Chourou with him to focus on religion, and stay out of politics,” he said, referring to two of the party’s most ultra-conservative leaders.
Follow Yasmine Ryan on Twitter @yasmineryan