TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's ruling Islamists have agreed to an initiative by the country's main labor union to avert the brewing political crisis by eventually forming a government of technocrats, a top union official said Thursday.
The assassination of an opposition politician in late July plunged the country into crisis, with the opposition demanding the government and assembly elected in 2011, be dissolved — demands backed up by demonstrations and sit-ins.
There were even fears that Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, might go the way of Egypt, where dissatisfaction with Islamist rule resulted in a military coup and the bloody suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood, killing more than 1,000 people.
Tunisia, however, has managed to avoid the persistent bloodshed and cycle of unrest that has roiled Egypt after the overthrow of its president just a month after Tunisia deposed theirs on Jan. 14, 2011. Despite a rocky transition, the Islamist-dominated government and the secular opposition parties have always been able to reach a compromise.
Mouldi Jendoubi, the assistant secretary general of the General Union of Tunisian Workers, known as the UGTT, told the state news agency that the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party had agreed to a government of technocrats "to get the country out of its current crisis."
The announcement follows talks between Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi and the powerful union head Houcine Abassi. The union, long a bastion of left-wing politics, has generally sided with the opposition against the government, but in the latest crisis took on a role as a mediator.
A subsequent statement by Ennahda said the party accepted the union's initiative as a starting point for dialogue and the current government would remain until an agreement was reached.
"The coalition government will not resign and will continue its duties until national dialogue reaches a consensus agreement that guarantees the completion of the democratic transition and the organization of free and fair elections," the statement said.
Opposition reaction to the announcement was mixed, with Nejib Chebbi, head of the liberal Jomhouri (Republican) party, welcoming it as a "positive step to relaunch the national dialogue as soon as possible and find an end to this crisis."
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