Tunisia's Ennahdha party dismisses new coalition government

North African nation may be heading for new parliamentary elections over its inability to form a government.

    Elections in October fragmented Tunisia's political establishment [File: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]
    Elections in October fragmented Tunisia's political establishment [File: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

    Tunisia's Islamist Ennahdha party has rejected a new government proposal that excludes other parties, and is open to contest another election.

    The biggest party in Parliament in a statement on Monday threatened to upend a second attempt to form a coalition government since elections in October, which fragmented the political establishment.

    "We reject the government coalition being confined to some parties," a senior official of Ennahdha, Abd Karim Harouni, said.

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    Harouni said all parties needed to be in the government to make it strong enough "to deal with major challenges and carry out necessary reforms".

    The Parliament rejected on January 10 a government proposed by Ennahdha's candidate and Prime Minister-designate Habib Jemli after months of negotiations between political parties to fill positions.

    The decision handed President Kais Saied an opportunity to nominate his choice for premier, the former finance and tourism minister Elyes Fakhfakh.

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    Last week, Fakhfakh said he would not seek to replicate recent unity coalitions, but would instead build a cabinet only from those, including Ennahdha, that were "aligned with the values of the revolution".

    The country's second-largest party, Heart of Tunisia, whose leader was defeated by Saied in the presidential election, but which is also an opponent of Ennahdha, was one of those Fakhfakh ruled out of joining the government.

    Tussle for influence

    Ennahdha's rejection of the proposal means Fakhfakh could struggle to assemble majority support in Parliament, risking a new parliamentary election.

    Analysts said the decision points to a tussle for influence between Ennahdha and Saied over the shape of the next government.

    Ennahdha emerged as the most powerful party after winning the most seats in the country's October parliamentary election. But the self-described Muslim Democratic party's 52 of a total 217 seats available for grabs meant it still needed to win the backing of other parties.

    Saied won the second-round runoff vote of a separate presidential election in a landslide, but as an independent, he lacks a parliamentary base of his own.

    Tunisia's prime minister and government are primarily answerable to the Parliament, but the president also has a veto over new legislation they introduce.

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency