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Tunisia's Islamists, opponents set handover date

Source: Reuters - Mon, 23 Dec 2013 01:37 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Parties agree on Jan. 14 handover to new govt

* Islamists Ennahda stepping down to end crisis

* Tunisia still model after Arab Spring revolts

TUNIS, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Tunisia's ruling Islamists and opposition parties agreed on Monday to finish their handover to a caretaker government by Jan. 14, the third anniversary of the fall of autocratic leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

After months of crisis, Tunisia's Islamist party Ennahda and opponents last week named a new prime minister to lead a temporary non-political cabinet, which will govern until elections next year to finish its transition to democracy.

As part of their deal, political leaders must finish the country's constitution, agree on an election date, and name an electoral council to oversee the vote before Ennahda steps down to make way for the new administration.

"We have agreed the new government, the election date and the new constitution will be ready by Jan. 13 so we celebrate on Jan. 14, the third anniversary of the revolution," said Maghreb Republican party leader, Boussairi Bou Abdeli.

Three years after its protests against Ben Ali inspired Arab uprisings elsewhere, Tunisia is close to ending a crisis over the role of Islam in politics that has threatened to delay its last steps to democracy.

After months of demonstrations, Ennahda party earlier this year agreed to resign to ease the turmoil. But Islamists and secular opposition parties only named Mehdi Jomaa, an engineer and industry minister, as new prime minister after weeks of delays and wrangling.

Tunisia, whose strong secular tradition clashed with rise of Ennahda and the ambitions of Islamist militants, has not suffered the violence seen in Egypt, Yemen and Libya in their transitions after the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions. (Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Alison Williams)

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