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Tunisia Turning Tense As 70 MPs Boycott Assembly

By Countercurrents.org

29 July, 2013

The number of MPs who have decided to boycott the Constituent Assembly since Brahmi's murder has risen to 70 -- nearly a third of the 217-seat strong parliament. Tunisia army has blocked off the square where rival protesters have confronted each other in Tunis on July 29, 2013, declaring it ‘closed military zone’ to try to stave off rising unrest. Opposition leaders said they might set up a rival "salvation government", an idea they will discuss later. The 70 lawmakers have set up a sit-in outside the Assembly offices in Bardo square. Opposition figures are calling for the government to resign.

Media reports from Tunisia said:

Tensions have been growing over opposition efforts to oust the Islamist-led government following last week's assassination of a leftist politician, the second such killing in six months.

After protesters clashed on early-Monday in the capital's central Bardo square, where Tunisia's Constituent Assembly is located, the army sealed it off with barbed wire and fencing. The army fenced off Bardo square after rival protesters threw rocks at each other and police dispersed them.

Security forces beat one of the lawmakers who had quit the Constituent Assembly. He was taken to hospital. "The prime minister will be held accountable for any drop of blood spilled in the Bardo sit-in," opposition figure Manji Rahawi said. Both protest groups vowed to return to Bardo.

Opposition supporters were already gathering nearby, and Ennahda partisans vowed to return following prayers. Last night around 10,000 people demonstrated for and against the government on Bardo Square outside the parliament building.

Opposition MPs and secular politicians joined protesters calling for the dissolution of the NCA and the resignation of the government, chanting: "The people want the fall of the assassins."

On the other side, government supporters chanted back: "The people are Muslim and will not capitulate".

On 29 July 2013, politician Hedi Ben Abbes, a member of the centre-left Congress for the Republic, one of Ennahda's coalition partners in the government, said he was quitting the party.

In Sidi Bouzid, angry protesters tried to storm municipal offices to stop employees from going to work, sparking clashes with supporters of the Islamist Ennahda party, which leads the transitional government. The army intervened to protect the offices and police fired tear gas, but thousands of demonstrators were still gathering in the southern city, the cradle of the revolt that overthrew president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

The unrest has erupted just weeks before the transitional Constituent Assembly was set to complete a draft of a new constitution. The opposition now demands that the 217-member body be dissolved.

The Islamist-led government was scheduled to have an emergency meeting. But it has been delayed.

The country’s biggest union the General Union of Tunisian Labour (UGTT) is also going to meet "to decide the fate" of the country, said its secretary general Sami Tahri said. The UGTT will carry out its historic role to defend the right of Tunisians to protest peacefully... and assume its responsibilities vis-a-vis the crisis."

People are frustrated that a constitution, promised one year after the 2011 uprising, has yet to be completed and are suspicious of the Islamist-led transitional government.
Authorities have blamed radical Salafists close to the Al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Sharia of gunning down progressive politician Brahmi, whose body was riddled with 14 bullets outside his home.

Political parties and civil society components announced the formation of a National Salvation Front, at the end of a meeting held on July 26, to discuss the political situation in the country after the assassination of politician Mohamed Brahmi.

According to a communiqué made public on Friday, this Front will see to it to form a national higher authority for national salvation to be tasked, in collaboration with experts in constitutional law, with finishing off drafting of the Constitution within two months, to be submitted later to referendum.

This Front will also form a national salvation government whose members will not stand for the forthcoming elections. The new government will be led by an independent and consensual political personality and will take a set of urgent economic, social, political and security measures and will prepare free and transparent democratic elections.
In their communiqué, participants in this meeting blame the Ennahdha Movement for the upsurge of violence and proliferation of political crime which targeted Lotfi Naghdh, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.

The political parties and civil society components called on the Tunisian people for a peaceful civil disobedience by ensuring a minimum of social and health services, holding the Ennahdha movement responsible for any provocation from militia against the people.

The communiqué was signed by the Workers' Party, Nidaa Tounes, the Ettakatol reforming movement, El Kotb, the Socialist Party, the Farmers' Voice, the Arab Democratic Vanguard Party, The Tunisian Anti-Torture Organisation and the Union of Unemployed Graduates.

An earlier report said:
Police fired tear gas on July 28 at protesters as opponents and supporters of the Islamist-led government clashed outside parliament after the burial of the second opposition figure slain this year.

Many Tunisians blame the government for not reining in radical Islamists accused of a wave of attacks since strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.

Radical Salafists close to the Al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Sharia, blamed by the authorities for Brahmi's murder, denied any involvement in an online statement on July 28.





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