Tunisia Islamist party chooses new prime minister

Tunisia Islamist party chooses new prime minister
# 22 February 2013 21:17 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Tunisia's ruling Islamist party has chosen an interior minister seen as a hardliner to form a new government, a top official said Friday, in a signal the government is unlikely to back down to opposition demands to try to smooth over the country's political crisis.

The Ennahda party named Ali Larayedh to take over after Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned when it rejected his proposal to form an apolitical government of technocrats.

The split between the party and Jebali was seen as a deep disagreement between the party's hardline and moderate wings. Tunisia plunged into its deepest crisis since its dictator was deposed two years ago with the assassination earlier this month of a secular opposition leader. The killing set off days of rioting and highlighted divisions between secular Tunisians and within the ruling party itself, APA reports quoting Associated Press.

Larayedh, who has been widely criticized by the opposition for failing to ensure stability, is believed to come from the wing of the party that has been less willing to compromise with secular parties. His nomination could make the task of finding consensus and building a coalition with Tunisia's other political parties more difficult.

The party chose Larayedh, 57, in an overnight meeting and he will be presented to President Moncef Marzouki later Friday, Moadh Ghannouchi, the son of Ennahda's leader, told the Associated Press.

Larayedh spent 15 years in prison under the previous regime and has attempted to reform the police force which was widely hated as the enforcer for dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Security, however, has been a problem under his watch, especially with regular attacks by extremist Islamists over the past year against targets they deem impious, culminating in the Sept. 14 assault on the U.S. embassy over an amateur film made in the United States attacking the Prophet Muhammad.

Larayedh also announced late Thursday the arrest of several suspects in the assassination of opposition lawyer Chokri Belaid, saying "rapid progress" had been made in the investigation.

He gave few details, however, and could not confirm whether those arrested were the suspected killers or say who was behind the assassination.

Belaid was shot four times outside his home on Feb. 6, provoking days of unrest as many Tunisians held the government responsible for his death.

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