Tunisia Picks New PM ahead of Polls
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Tunisia's ruling party and its opponents named Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa as prime minister in a caretaker technocrat cabinet to govern until elections next year, said the powerful UGTT union, which has been acting as mediator.
The announcement on Saturday is part of an agreement that will see the ruling party, Ennahda, hand over power in the next few weeks as a way to end a crisis that threatened Tunisia's transition to full democracy after its "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011.
Under a previous accord brokered by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Ennahda had agreed to resign once the sides decided on a caretaker cabinet, finished a new constitution and set a date for elections.
Houcine Abassi, UGTT secretary-general, said Jomaa was picked following discussions which led to a vote, Al Jazeera reported.
"Our people have waited for a long time, but despite the difficulties and obstacles... this dialogue has not failed," he said.
Al Jazeera's Youssef Gaigi, reporting from Tunis, said Jomaa emerged as a consensus candidate.
"He is independent, he is not affiliated with any political party, and he has been in the government for a few months now," Gaigi said.
Tunisia, whose strong secular tradition has collided with the political power of the moderate Islamist Ennahda, has kept strong ties with former colonial ruler France, and relies heavily on European tourism.
Its political landscape is dominated by two men who say elections are the best way forward: Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi and Beji Caid Essebsi, a former Ben Ali-era official who now leads the main secular opposition party, Nida Tounes.
But the protracted political crisis has hurt the economy and prospects of generating prosperity in the nation where a street vendor set himself on fire nearly three years ago in a gesture of despair that ignited a flame of revolt across the Arab world.