Mehdi Jomaa in Tunis on on December 18, 2013
Mehdi Jomaa in Tunis on on December 18, 2013 © Fethi Belaid - AFP
Mehdi Jomaa in Tunis on on December 18, 2013
Last updated: December 23, 2013

Talks begin in Tunisia on new government

Tunisia's politicians have until January 14 to adopt a constitution and form a new government to replace the one headed by Islamist party Ennahda, mediators said Monday.

"The countdown will begin on December 25 and end on January 14 at the latest," said national dialogue spokesman Ahmed Mahfoudh, after talks got underway Monday following three postponements.

The talks, mediated by the powerful UGTT trade union, focused on when independent Mehdi Jomaa will take over from Ennahda Prime Minister Ali Larayedh.

Ennahda, which has been sharply criticised for failing to rein in Tunisia's jihadists since being elected in the wake of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 2011 overthrow, agreed in October to step down as part of a political road map brokered by mediators.

Larayedh has said he is ready to give up his post as long as a new constitution and electoral law are introduced and an electoral commission is in place so elections can be held next year.

Mahfoudh said the talks will resume on Wednesday.

Mouldi Jendoubi, secretary general of the powerful UGTT trade union that is mediating the talks, said Jomaa would begin to select members of his transitional government from Wednesday.

Under the new timetable, Larayedh is expected to stand down by January 14, which is the third anniversary of Ben Ali's ouster.

On Friday, Jomaa promised to "favour the appropriate conditions for transparent and credible elections, the security of Tunisians and promoting the economy with the aim of emerging from the crisis".

His nomination to form a government of independents was agreed as a way out of the political deadlock gripping Tunisia since July, when MP Mohamed Brahmi was assassinated by suspected Islamists.

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