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Tunisia parties pick PM ahead of elections

16 December 2013, 09:37

Tunis - Tunisia's ruling Islamist party and its opponents have named Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa as prime minister in a caretaker technocrat cabinet to govern until elections next year, three sources close to negotiations said on Saturday.

The appointment is part of an agreement that will see moderate Islamist party Ennahda hand over power in the next few weeks to end a crisis that threatened Tunisia's transition to democracy after its 2011 uprising.

Three years after its protests against autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali inspired Arab uprisings elsewhere, Tunisia has been struggling with disputes over the role of Islam in one of the Arab world's most secular countries.

Jomaa, an aerospace engineer by training, will head the non-partisan cabinet that will govern until elections likely in early 2014.

Under the agreement brokered by Tunisia's powerful labour unions, Islamist Ennahda party, which faced opposition from secular rivals, has agreed to resign once politicians decide on a caretaker cabinet, complete the country's new constitution and set a date for elections.

Despite its crisis, Tunisia has fared better than two North African neighbours that also toppled their leaders. Egypt's elected Islamist president is in jail after the military ousted him, and Libya is struggling to control the militias that fought Muammar Gaddafi.

But Tunisia's crisis has hurt the economy and prospects of generating prosperity in the nation where a street vendor set himself on fire nearly three years ago in a gesture of despair that ignited a flame of revolt across the Arab world.

- Reuters


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