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Politics

Tunisian president’s secular party 'quits' government

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki’s secular party has announced it is quitting the Islamist-led government. The party claims their demands for cabinet changes have not been met.

Tunisia's secular Congress for the Republic Party (CPR) is withdrawing from Tunisia's Islamist-led government, a party spokesman said Sunday. The announcement deals another blow to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's Ennahda-led government, which has been the target of anger since last week's assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

Hedi Ben Abbes, spokesman for the secular CPR, told Mosaique radio on Sunday that the party had withdrawn its three ministers over the failure to agree on a new cabinet. According to the radio's website, an official announcement of this decision will be made ​​at a press conference on Monday, February 11.

CPR official Samir Ben Amor told the Reuters news agency, "We have been saying for a week that if the foreign and justice ministers were not changed, we would withdraw from the government."

The announcement comes after days of widespread protests sparked by Belaid's assassination on Wednesday, which his family blamed on the ruling Islamist Ennahda party. The leftist Belaid had been a vocal critic of the government in recent months, but Ennahda has denied any involvement.

Following the assassination, Prime Minister Jebali announced plans to dissolve the government and appoint an interim technocratic cabinet. However, even before Belaid's murder, Jebali had been trying for weeks to get his Ennahda party, the CPR and another secular coalition partner to agree on a new cabinet.

On Saturday, the prime minister threatened to quit if political parties did not support a planned cabinet of non-partisan technocrats that he plans to unveil this week.

After three days of street violence, the streets in the capital Tunis were relatively quiet Sunday, however security forces remain on a state of alert with the army deployed nationwide.

hc/dr (Reuters, dpa, AFP)