Tunisia's transition to democracy threatened

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 10:44am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 6:23am

Coalition partners of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party say they are in talks to reach a new power-sharing deal, in a bid to stave off growing unrest since the assassination of secular opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi.

The moves came as Tunisian police clashed on Saturday with secular protesters demanding the dissolution of the assembly and Islamists defending the legitimacy of their rule.

Thousands chanting anti-government slogans joined Brahmi's funeral march in a display of the anger threatening a government seen as a regional model for the transition to democracy.

Brahmi's assassination, at his home in Tunis on Thursday has thrown the country into fresh political crisis, and revealed deep social divisions between Islamists and their opponents.

The government has blamed an Islamist extremist cell linked to al-Qaeda for the killing and identified the chief suspect as a Salafist who it said was also responsible for the death of another opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, in February.

Opposition leaders who joined the protests called for the government to resign and for a national salvation government to replace it before elections.

Their efforts have been fuelled by the recent protests and unrest in Egypt, which toppled that country's democratically elected but unpopular Islamist leader a year after he came to power.

Two years after the revolution that overturned the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the transitional government has still not passed a constitution or organised elections.

"He was killed because he criticised the government," said Nabil Brahmi, who is married to a cousin of Brahmi's. "He was killed because of his values, his principles and his free speech."

Additional reporting by The New York Times