Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Laareydh has called a general election for December 17 after an emergency meeting aimed at easing political tensions and as protesters demanded the Islamist government's ouster.
"This government will stay in office: we are not clinging to power but we have a duty and a responsibility that we will exercise to the end," he told state television on Monday.
Government detractors say the Ennahda-led coalition has failed to rein in radical Islamists who have grown in influence and stand accused of a wave of attacks since the 2011 uprising.
Nine Tunisian soldiers had their throats cut on Monday in the Mount Chaambi area near the border with Algeria where troops have been hunting al-Qaeda-linked fighters, medical and military sources said. The bodies of the ambushed soldiers were found stripped of their uniforms and weapons.
"The government is not incapable of calling for popular support to discover whether the people are with this government or with those who want to take it backwards towards the unknown," Larayedh said.
December 17 is a significant date: it was on that day in 2010 that fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself alive in the town of Sidi Bouzid, beginning the Tunisian revolution.