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'Potentially huge repercussions for Tunisia'

Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi was shot dead in the second such political killing this year, prompting violent protests against the Islamist-led government. What is behind the assassination?

Mohamed Brahmi was about to leave his home on Thursday (27.07.2013) when he was shot before the eyes of his wife. Doctors found 14 bullets in his body.

Brahmi, 58, is not the first prominent opposition politician to be assassinated in Tunisia this year, In February, unknown killers murdered then-party leader Chokri Belaid. Tunisian authorities say the same murder weapon was used in both cases. What does this assassination mean for Tunisia? Deutsche Welle spoke to Joachim Paul, head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Tunis.

Deutsche Welle: What role did Mohamed Brahmi play in Tunisia?

Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, . EPA/STR

Mohamed Brahmi was a critic of the ruling coalition

Joachim Paul: Mohamed Brahmi was an important representative of the Tunisian political landscape. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly. Sidi Bouzid was his electoral district, where the Tunisian revolution began. Brahmi headed the Popular Front party, a small Arab nationalist political party with two representatives in the Assembly.

Who could be behind Brahmi's murder?

What immediately stands out is that the murder followed a similar, if not the same, pattern as the killing of party leader Chokri Belaid at the start of the year. That is true for the assassination method as well as the profile of the victim. Of course, there is quite some speculation. Some believe parts of the old regime are behind the attacks, others suspect radical Islamist underground organizations.

The victim's family accuses Ennahda, the ruling Islamist party, of being behind the attack. What do you think about these accusations?

Relatives and supporters of Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, mourn at the hospital where Brahmi was taken EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA

Relatives and supporters mourned at the hospital

That is very difficult to judge. The leftwing opposition also held Ennahda responsible for the murder of Chokri Belaid. But Ennahda and leader Rached Ghannouchi immediately declared that they believe the Brahmi assassination was an attack on the transformation process in Tunisia. So it is very important for Ennahda, for the Tunisian government and for the Tunisian people that these murders be solved, indeed in a credible and transparent manner, and as quickly as possible.

What sort of consequences could there be from the murder?

It could have significant political repercussions. The assassination of Chokri Belaid in February triggered a political earthquake. It resulted in the resignation of the first Ennahda government. There have already been demands from within the left and civilian society for the government to resign. These people want a government of national unity. That government should reshape the transformation process and bring it to a successful conclusion. Plans at the moment are to definitely adopt the new constitution this summer in the Constituent Assembly. Elections will then be scheduled for the end of this year, or the beginning of next year. It remains to be seen whether all of this can be realized.

In Egypt, the military toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. How great is the danger that Tunisia wil experience a development similar to Egypt?

Of course, developments in Tunisia and Egypt are related. But the countries are structurally different. Egypt was a military dictatorship for decades and now the military has again assumed power. In Tunisia, the military does not have a direct political role. Even the dictatorship of Ben Ali, who was ousted in January 2011 by a popular revolt, is based more on the police and secret services than a military regime. For that reason I believe they can't be compared directly.

Joachim Paul, Leiter der Heinrich Böll Stiftung in Tunis *** undatiert, eingestellt im Juli 2013

Tunisians are dissatisfied, Joachim Paul says

But a rebel movement developed in Tunisia, too. It has the same name as in Egypt, Tamarud, which is the Arab word for rebellion. The movement called for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. I suspect there will be a run on this movement following the assassination.

Is an overthrow of the Islamists possible in Tunisia?

Ennahda rules in a coalition with two smaller parties, including the party of President Moncef Marzouki. It is an elected government. I could imagine political dynamics that challenge a continuation of this government.

How has the political climate developed in Tunisia since Ben Ali's overthrow?

There is great dissatisfaction among the population. In the two and a half years since the revolution, little has happened that would point to changed living conditions and an improved economic situation. The majority of the people are disappointed that the constituent process takes so long. The process was originally slated to take one year and was to conclude in October 2012, a year after the 2011 elections. But the constitution is still being debated.

How strong is the opposition?

The opposition is definitely very strong. If all the opposition forces were to unite, they could really pose a political threat to Ennahda in elections. So I would say the outcome of the political dispute is wide open.

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