Tunisia's ex-Premier Quits Own Islamist Party

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Tunisia's former premier and Ennahda secretary general Hamadi Jebali announced on Facebook Thursday that he was stepping down from the Islamist party as he no longer agreed with its policies.

Jebali, who had already distanced himself from Ennahda, said he had joined the movement in the early 1970s in the name of "freedom and justice" against "tyranny and corruption."

He spent many years in prison under the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in the 2011 revolution that launched the Arab Spring.

Jebali said the North African country now faced "huge challenges", in particular the threat of a return to "tyranny and corruption."

"I chose to be among those activists eager to ensure the peaceful revolution triumphed... I have great difficulty in remaining faithful to this position given the state of Ennahda today. I find myself no longer agreeing with its choices," he said.

In legislative elections in October, Ennahda was beaten by the Nidaa Tounes party, and has decided not to field a candidate in the presidential election, whose second round is set for December 21.

However, the party has not ruled out collaborating with Nidaa Tounes, despite that party's virulent anti-Islamist stance and the presence in its ranks of former Ben Ali regime officials.

Ennahda's position has been hard to swallow for some members of the party which was ruthlessly repressed under Ben Ali.

Jebali became prime minister in December 2011 after the country's first free elections that were won by Ennahda. He quit during the political crisis that followed the murder of prominent leftwing opposition leader Chokri Belaid in February 2013.

His own party urged that he step aside, rejecting his proposal for a government of technocrats.

Rumors had suggested he might stand for president in this year's election that now sees incumbent Moncef Marzouki and Nidaa Tounes chief Beji Caid Essebsi facing off in 10 days' time.

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