By Robert Joyce | Jul 28 2013amin ghali , Assassination , Ennahdha , Mohamed Brahmi , najiba barioul ,
Amid numerous protests around the country following the assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, 65 members of the opposition have withdrawn from the National Constituent Assembly (NCA).
The politicians from a range of opposition parties joined civil society organizations in calling for a the ouster of the Ennahdha-led government and dissolution of the NCA in a press conference Friday night.
At Friday’s press conference, 42 members announced their withdrawal. That number has since grown to 65 and is expected to climb, according to Samir Bettaib, a withdrawn NCA member from Al Massar party, speaking to Mosaique FM. [display_posts type="related" limit="3" position="right"]
The members demanded a “national salvation government” consisting of a committee to finalize the constitution, present it for referendum, and prepare for elections.
The 65 members have “withdrawn,” but have not resigned, meaning that they have suspended their activities within the NCA and are forgoing their salaries but reserve the right to rejoin. The dissenting bloc intentionally decided to withdraw rather than resign since multiple opposition members were originally elected through parties in the ruling Troika coalition. Under NCA rules, the coalition leadership would be able to appoint members to replace those who resign, in effect strengthening the Troika’s position in the assembly.
While the withdrawn members come from various political parties, they stated that none had consulted with their respective party before withdrawing and that leadership of their respective parties had not ordered their members to withdraw from the NCA.
In the press conference the withdrawn politicians joined opposition parties and political activists in calling for street protests and a sit-in in front of the NCA building in Bardo. Following Brahmi’s funeral on Saturday many of the withdrawn members joined protesters. [display_posts type="same_author" limit="3" position="right"]
The protest quickly turned violent when police used tear gas to clear the area. One politician, Monji Rahoui, alleges he was assaulted by the police.
Representatives from Ennahdha condemned the withdrawals as “unpatriotic.”
“The should finish the job they started,” said Najiba Barioul, an Ennahdha NCA member.
She added that the NCA will continue to meet to work on the constitution despite the resignations.
Tunisian analysts differed in their reactions to the withdrawals and demands.
Radwan Masmoudi, president at Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a U.S.-based think tank focusing on Islam and politics, urged support for the existing government and the NCA.
On his Facebook page, Masmoudi urged people to show their support in front of the NCA, which he called the “symbol of legitimacy and democratic transition in Tunisia.”
Government supporters were present at the NCA in smaller numbers than those calling for its dissolution.
Amin Ghali, a political analyst and Program Director of Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center, was critical of Ennahdha’s reaction.
He echoed calls for a national salvation government to take office for no longer than nine months, saying that a panel of experts should be able to come to a concensus over the “12-14” remaining contentious points of the draft constitution.
Ghali did not expect concensions from Ennahdha saying that “we are still in the early stages” and that new developments could be expected with increased pressure from the street.
While he was concerned that Tunisians were underestimating the situation, calling the assassinations of Brahmi and Belaid “very serious,” Ghali was hopeful about the potential outcome.
“Democracy isn’t a linear process, we will rise and fall until we achieve it.”
Roua Khlifi and Salma Bouzid contributed reporting.