Tunisia's president has asked an Islamist minister to form a government to steer the country forward. Ali Larayedh, from the main Islamist Ennahda Party, has pledged to form a "government of all Tunisians."
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Friday tapped Larayedh to form the next government.
Ennahda Party leader Rached Ghannouchi reportedly nominated Larayedh to take over from outgoing Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who resigned on Tuesday.
"We are going to enter the phase of forming a new government that will be for all Tunisian men and women, taking into account the fact that men and women have equal rights and responsibilities," said Larayedh on his promotion from interior minister.
Stemming a crisis
Larayedh "will have 15 days to form a new government and present its plan" to the head of state, Marzouki's spokesman said, adding that the president urged him to do so "as quickly as possible because the country cannot wait any longer."
Tunisia has been suffering a political crisis that reached fever pitch on February 6 with the assassination of leftist politician Chokri Belaid.
Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets outside the Interior Ministry to condemn his killing, accusing Larayedh of failing to protect Belaid.
Jebali, considered a moderate in the Ennahda Party, resigned earlier this week after his own party rejected his proposal for an apolitical technocrat cabinet to prepare for elections. This led to Larayedh's promotion on Friday.
Not all agree
The choice of Larayedh has raised some concerns, especially among those who accuse the interior minister of failing to curb Islamist violence.
"The decision deepens the crisis because Larayedh headed the ministry responsible for the killing of Belaid and violence that has spread throughout the country," said Zied Lakhdar, a leader in the Popular Front, in which Belaid was secretary general.
Mahmoud Baroudi, a leader of the secular Democratic Alliance opposition party, also said Larayedh's appointment would aggravate tensions and increase anger in the streets.
"He was responsible for leniency with Islamist violence against human rights activists," he said.
The Interior Ministry and Ennahda have denied having anything to do with Belaid's killing, for which no one has claimed responsibility.
A way forward
Tunisia's transition into a democracy has been far less crisis-ridden than in Libya or Egypt, but political uncertainty is raising international eyebrows.
The unrest has put an International Monetary Fund loan for Tunisia on hold. Moreover, Standard and Poor on Tuesday lowered the nation's long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating.
Larayedh's success will depend upon his ability to form a coalition that balances Ennahda's electoral claims with the opposition's demand for a non-partisan administration to steer the country out of crisis.
The opposition wants the top ministries, including the Interior and Justice Ministries, to be run by apolitical technocrats. Jebali's proposal along these lines was refused. Time will tell whether Larayaedh is able to form the needed coalition and succeed in appeasing the opposition.
tm/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)