Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Ennahdha party, reiterated today his opposition to the dissolution of the National Consitituent Assembly (NCA) and denounced what he referred to as Marxist attempts to overthrow the government.
He addressed the ongoing political crisis in Tunisia during a Thursday morning press conference in which he also mentioned recent bloodshed in Egypt.
At times since the start of the current political crisis following the July 25 assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, the opposition and the ruling coalition have seemed to hint at compromises. Recently, however, both sides seem to be doubling down.
Ghannouchi rejected the opposition's demands for the dissolution of the NCA and the removal of other government officials. [display_posts type=”related” limit=”3″ position=”right”]
He advocated continuing the constitution-drafting process that stopped after Brahmi's death, saying that Tunisia will not start from scratch.
We will not allow the division of our country and will not submit to those seeking to impose their coup plans, he said, according to Ennahdha's Facebook page.
He instead welcomed the addition of what he called political partners to the government and set an October 23 deadline for the current government and the NCA to finish the constitution and plan elections.
Ennahdha has insisted that political leaders remain at the helm of the government, rejecting opposition calls for a non-partisan panel of experts to finish the constitution-drafting process plan elections.
Ghannouchi called any proposals to change the government through means other than elections attempts to exploit the situation in Tunisia and Egypt for partisan ends.
What has happened in Egypt is a disaster resulting from overturning the legal and constitutional order, he added, citing the bloody crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrators by Egyptian security forces.
The Egyptian lesson will strengthen our unity, he said.
Ghannouchi was dismissive of the opposition's demands, referring to calls for dissolution of the government as old Marxist fantasies.
He said the government has made many mistakes, but that this did not justify a coup or suspension of dialogue.
Ghannouchi's remarks come as the opposition's demands increase.
On Tuesday, at a rally celebrating national Women's Day, Hamma Hammami, leader of the Popular Front opposition coalition, announced the start of an Irhal campaign, aiming to remove not only the NCA and the sitting government, but all government and public officials appointed under the Ennahdha-led government.
The campaign will start in earnest, according to the announcement and accompanying statement, on August 24.
NCA Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar announced the suspension of the assembly over a week ago, but Ghannouchi said that this was only temporary.
Ben Jaafar is too wise to thinkhe can dissolve the NCA by himself, Ghannouchi said.
The Ennahdha leader pledged that the Independent Board of Elections, which is charged with organizing elections and is appointed by the the NCA, would be in place within a week of the resumption of the legislature's activities. The board's membership was nearly finalized before Brahmi's death, with all but one out of nine members in place.
Ghannouchi also called for international monitors from the United Nations to supervise the elections, a response to opposition concerns that elections organized by the current government would not be fair.
Ghannouchi's statements today were rejected by Nidaa Tounes, a major opposition party.
Khmais Ksila, a member of Nidaa Tounes' executive committee, called the ouster of the government and NCA a popular and urgent demand. He also said that President Moncef Marzouki must also step down. [display_posts type=”same_author” limit=”3″ position=”right”]
Ennahdha's offer to include Nidaa Tounes is not a favor and came rather late, according to Ksila. He added that Nidaa Tounes is in contact with the UGTT, Tunisia's largest union, and other opposition parties.
Nidaa Tounes considers the dissolution of the NCA and government to be a condition for any dialogue. Upon the ouster of both, the opposition's suggested names for the national salvation government will be released, according to Ksila.
In a similar gesture, Ksila invited Ennahdha's participation in future political dealings.
We hope Enahdha takes part in the solution rather than be stubborn and drag the country into more of a mess, he said.
Nissaf Salma contributed reporting.