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Tunisia Prime Minister Ali Larayedh resigns ahead of elections

Tunisia's Islamist prime minister, Ali Larayedh, has resigned, handing power over to a caretaker government. The cabinet of technocrats will run the country until fresh elections.

Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, of the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, resigned on Thursday under a plan with the opposition to end months of public protests.

"I have just handed my resignation to the president," Larayedh told reporters. "I hope the country will be a model for democratic transition," he added.

The resignation of the Ennahda-led government has been viewed as the party's failure to manage the

rocky transition following the 2011 ouster

of Tunisia's autocrat, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali - the first of the

Arab Spring uprisings in the region

.

Tensions flared again last July when gunmen killed two secular opposition leaders sparking protests and calls for Ennahda members to resign from power for being too lax with hardliners.

As a result of the turmoil, Ennahda reached a compromise late last year with main opposition Nidaa Tounes to relinquish power. As part of the agreement Tunisia's national assembly is in the process of voting on a new constitution. New elections will be held this year and an electoral council has been appointed to oversee the vote.

Tunisia's new government, to be led by technocrat Mehdi Jomaa, will face a host of issues including massive economic reforms to cut back its deficit. Cities across the North African nation have been wracked by protests this week over high inflation, unemployment and new taxes in the budget.

hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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