Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned Tuesday after his ruling Ennadha party rejected a plan to form a cabinet of non-partisan technocrats. Jebali had promised to resign if his proposal failed, but at a news conference, he explained that he would consider leading another government once a timetable for new elections and a new constitution was defined.
Jebali’s proposal came in response to political turmoil caused by the assassination of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid earlier this month. Secularist hold deep mistrust for the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Ennahda party with thousands of Tunisians taking to the streets after his death. Some, including Belaid’s wife, blame Ennahda for fostering a climate conducive to such an assassination. The killing of Belaid was the first high profile political assassination in two years since the Arab Spring uprisings toppled former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announces his resignation during a news conference in Tunis February 19, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Jebali said that his resignation was the first step in “restoring public confidence in the government.” The ruling party countered that it intended to renominate Jebali as Prime Minister. Farida Labidi, a Ennahdha representative in the National Constituent Assembly, said that the party does not have a clear vision of what will happen next but plans on continuing dialogue between the party and Jebali.
The prime minister’s resignation could increase political uncertainty and ultimately harm Tunisia’s economy. This announcement came the same day as Standard & Poor, an international ratings agency, downgraded the government credit rating over. The new BB- rating makes it harder for the government to borrow on international markets and could hurt investor confidence.
Following the Arab Spring, Tunisia’s first free and democratic elections saw the victorious Ennahda party form a coalition government with two secular center-left parties. Tunisia was seen as the best hope for a smooth transition of power, however a year later, this may no longer be the case.