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Tunisian prime minister resigns after failing to reshape Cabinet

February 19, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announces his resignation during a news conference in the capital, Tunis, on Tuesday.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announces his resignation during… (European Pressphoto Agency )

The Tunisian prime minister stepped down Tuesday after failing to form a new government, a move he had hoped would defuse tensions in the divided country.

Hamadi Jebali had tried to persuade his ruling Nahda party, a moderate Islamist faction, to dissolve its Cabinet and create a new government of technocrats. The revamped government was meant to dial down tensions after the assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, which infuriated secular liberals and propelled thousands of protesters into the streets early this month.

Nahda rejected the plan, however, leaving the government at an impasse. Jebali had insisted that a nonpartisan government was needed to stop Tunisia from sliding into chaos.

“I promised if my initiative did not succeed I would resign as head of the government, and this is what I am doing following my meeting with the president,” Jebali said Tuesday at the presidential palace, according to the Associated Press. “Today there is a great disappointment among the people, and we must regain their trust, and this resignation is a first step.”

Jebali would not rule out returning to form a new government, but said it must be inclusive and free from political infighting, according to news reports. Nahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi had said a day earlier that lawmakers wanted Jebali to remain as prime minister.

His resignation came the same day that Tunisia suffered another downgrade to its credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, which warned that “political tensions have risen sharply" in the country. The downgrade makes it more difficult for Tunisia to borrow money.

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