Tunisia’s opposition alliance, the National Salvation Front (NSF) has called for country wide protests in all regions, and particularly in the capital, Tunis, on 23 October. The opposition believes that the Ennahda party is wilfully delaying the formation of a new government, and purposefully stalling negotiations.
On 5 October, the Ennahda party agreed to a political roadmap which would work toward the creation of a new caretaker government within three weeks. The roadmap includes the creation and passing of a new constitution and electoral laws, and a timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections. The transition date had been set for Sunday, 26 October.
However, on 6 October, Ennahda issued a statement calling for “the continuation of the current government until the completion of the constitutional tasks of the Assembly.” This statement directly contradicts the roadmap.
Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh has demanded four conditions be met before the current government is dissolved: the ratification of Tunisia’s new constitution, the reform of election oversight committees, the publication of new election procedures, and a clear date to be set for and parliamentary elections.
The Prime Minister insists that these demands are to ensure that the transition possible is smooth and free of political vacuum. To this end, the date of resignation of the current government was left open by Laarayedh, who said, “There is not a definitive time yet for the resignation of the current government.”
The NSF has accused the Ennahda party of attempting to buy time and failing to live up to their commitment. In response, Laarayedh said the problem with the transition is not the resignation of the government, but the need to maintain administrative continuity and “creating a solid foundation for a democratic environment.”
Complicating Tunisia’s political crisis is a security battle, particularly against armed Islamic extremist movements. The hard-core Salafist group, Ansar Al-Sharia, has been accused of carrying out the murder of Mohamed Brahmi, a left-wing MP, in July. The assassination put political progress at a standstill and deepened the political crisis.
Further, on 16 October, two Tunisian National Guard barracks on the border with Algeria were attacked by terrorist groups. The barracks are part of an advanced border monitoring system. While there have been no reports of casualties among the guards, the areas where the attacks were conducted are some of the most critical in the anti-terrorism system set up between Tunisia and Algeria.
Opposition leaders accuse Ennahda of failing to develop plans to ensure the safety of Tunisians. Laarayedh said that the situation was complex, and that part of the problem was the weakened government in neighbouring Libya, which has failed to mitigate smuggling and illegal weapons trade. The prime minister denied the existence of any accurate information on the quantity of weapons trafficked into Tunisia from Libya.
The scheduled date of the protests, October 23rd marks the two year anniversary of the election of the National Constitution Assembly. The opposition party has also accused Ennahda of mismanaging the economy and failing to improve living standards; these were the initial causes of the uprising in Tunisia in 2010-2011.