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Politics

Tunisia's ruling Islamist Ennahda party holds rally

Thousands have rallied in Tunisia to support the ruling Ennahda party. Meanwhile, the prime minister has threatened to resign if an interim government is not approved.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered on Tunis' main boulevard Saturday to bolster support for Ennahda. The moderate Islamist party is under attack after accusations of political responsibility for the death of opposition leader Chokri Belaid on February 6.

At the rally, demonstrators aimed to show support for the constitutional assembly, whose work on a new constitution suffered a major setback after the assassination of Belaid, which led leftist parties to withdraw their participation.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, the leader of Enahda, threatened to resign unless his party and other coalition members accepted his proposals for an interim government of technocrats. He originally proposed the plan on Wednesday, amid public outrage at Belaid's murder. The ruling Ennahda have, however, rejected the plan.

Jebali said he would present his new Cabinet "by the middle of next week by the latest," the official TAP news agency reported Saturday.

Anti-French sentiments

The Ennahda demonstrators also protested "French interference" after comments made earlier in the week by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls who called Belaid's murder an attack on "the values of Tunisia's Jasmine revolution."

Waving flags of the Ennahda party and shouting "Get out, France," the demonstrators also chanted, "The people still want Ennahda" and "The revolution continues" as they marched along the central Habib Bourguiba Avenue.

The avenue served as the center of the 2011 revolution that toppled long-standing President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, sparking the Arab Spring revolutions. Since then, the Ennahda party has governed in a coalition with two secular parties.

On Friday, Belaid's funeral drew an estimated 40,000 mourners and turned into a massive anti-government rally. Belaid, the coordinator of the leftist Popular Front coalition, was shot by an unknown attacker outside his house on Wednesday. He had been a vocal critic of the government in recent months, and his family blamed Ennahda for the shooting, but the party has denied any involvement.

The assassination has highlighted the tension between religious and secular Tunisians.

hc/ccp (Reuters, dpa, AFP)