Tunisian demonstrators protest against the country's Islamist-led government in Tunis on August 24, 2013
Tunisian demonstrators protest against the country's Islamist-led government in Tunis on August 24, 2013. Tunisia's ruling Islamists detailed Monday proposals to end weeks of political crisis, saying they would accept a technocrat government once consensus on the constitution and an election timetable are agreed. © Salah Habibi - AFP/File
Tunisian demonstrators protest against the country's Islamist-led government in Tunis on August 24, 2013
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AFP
Last updated: August 27, 2013

Tunisian Islamists link new government to constitution and polls

Tunisia's ruling Islamists detailed Monday proposals to end weeks of political crisis, saying they would accept a technocrat government once consensus on the constitution and an election timetable are agreed.

The ruling Islamist party Ennahda has been negotiating with opposition parties on finding a way out of the crisis triggered by a political assassination last month, with the opposition insisting on a new government.

But the negotiations have made little progress, with both sides reluctant to compromise on key issues, and Tunisian political life effectively paralysed.

"When agreement (with the opposition) has been reached on the constitution, the electoral law, the body charged with overseeing elections and the three dates of the presidential ... and legislative elections, then a government of independents could be formed," senior Ennahda official Ameur Larayedh told Tunisian radio station Mosaique FM.

Umbrella opposition group the National Salvation Front has repeatedly demanded the resignation of the Islamist-led government and the formation of a non-partisan administration, before negotiating on the constitution and timing of fresh elections.

One of the main opposition parties, Nidaa Tounes, said on Monday that its position remained unchanged, accusing Ennahda of having "not responded seriously" to the opposition's demands.

The Islamists, who originally rejected calls for the dissolution of the current government, indicated last week for the first time since the start of the crisis that they would accept in principle the resignation of the cabinet led by Prime Minister Ali Larayedh.

But they stressed the need first to resolve all major political differences, including over the new constitution, whose drafting has been blocked by disagreement in the national assembly.

On Saturday, the NSF launched what it called the "week of departure," a week-long campaign of protests to bring down the government, starting with a mass rally outside the assembly.

But the demonstration attracted fewer people than two similar protests held earlier this month -- some 10,000 according to police estimates.

The opposition accuses Ennahda of failing to rein in Tunisia's hardline Salafist movement, who are blamed for murdering MP Mohammed Brahimi in July and opposition and Chokri Belaid, another prominent secular politician whose assassination in February brought down the first Islamist-led coalition.

Ennahda has also been accused of mismanaging the economy and failing to improve living standards, with Egypt's Mohamed Morsi facing similar criticism in the mass protests that led to his military overthrow on July 3.

Senior Ennahda members have, for their part, accused the opposition of trying to mirror events in Egypt, saying their demands amount to an attempt to engineer a "coup" like the one that toppled Morsi.

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