Islamist Party Official Opposes Tunisia Cabinet Reshuffle

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A senior member of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party on Thursday criticized the decision by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to form a government of technocrats, reflecting the divisions within Ennahda.

"As far as we are concerned, our country still needs a government coalition based on the results of the elections on October 23, 2011" that Ennahda won, said Abdelhamid Jelassi, a member of the party's political bureau.

Jebali said in a televised address on Wednesday evening, in the wake of the killing of outspoken opposition leader Chokri Belaid, that he would form a new administration of non-political technocrats ahead of fresh elections.

Jelassi said the prime minister, who is number two in Ennahda, "had not consulted the party's political bureau before making the announcement".

Jebali did not specify that he was dissolving the existing government, nor did he set a date for the reshuffle which must be confirmed by the national assembly. He is expected to remain at the head of the new cabinet.

The party has not yet issued a statement, nor has its veteran leader Rached Ghannouchi reacted to Jebali's speech, although he did call for a "national reconciliation," speaking on state television after Wednesday's assassination.

A cabinet reshuffle has been awaited for months, but has been held up by wranglings between Ennahda and its secular allies in the coalition government over the allocation of key ministries.

Jebali is considered a moderate within his party and has for months been locked in negotiations with the secular parties in the coalition who have demanded that some of the ministries be assigned to independents, a move rejected by Ennahda hardliners.

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