TUNIS — Tunisia’s political crisis entered a new phase Sunday with an announcement that Cabinet ministers of the president’s own party are quitting the governing coalition, which could force the ruling Islamists to compromise with the opposition.
Veteran observers of Tunisia’s politics caution that the nation’s well-earned reputation as a stable bastion of moderation risks being put to the test, if the ruling Ennahda Party of moderate Islamists mishandles its response to the assassination Wednesday of opposition politician Chokri Belaid.
The killing of Belaid came amid deadlock between the opposition and the governing coalition of the moderate Islamist Ennahda and two secular parties.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali offered the compromise long sought by the opposition and said he would form a government of technocrats unconnected to parties, to see the nation through the crisis.
However, his party rejected his plan, saying they had been elected by the people and should continue to rule — highlighting the divisions not just between the government and the opposition, but within the governing party itself.
The announcement Sunday that Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki’s secular party is quitting the coalition government might in the end actually strengthen officials such as Jebali seeking a compromise, said analyst Riccardo Fabiani.