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Tunisia: Ennahda nominates Rachid Ghannouchi as speaker of parliament

Muslim democrats say they will also seek to appoint a prime minister of their choosing after last month's parliamentary poll
Rachid Ghannouchi (centre), whose Ennahda party came first in last month's parliamentary election, winning 52 seats (AFP)
By Faisal Edroos in Tunis

Tunisia's Ennahda party has said it will nominate its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, to be the new speaker of parliament, and also seek to appoint a prime minister of the party's choosing.

Abdul Karim al-Harouni, Ennahda's shura council speaker, said on Sunday that the movement had decided to nominate Ghannouchi, 78, for the post of speaker.

Ennahda won 52 seats in last month's parliamentary election, but fell well short of the 109 needed to govern outright.

The Muslim democrats have since maintained that one of its leaders should be prime minister because Tunisians gave it the responsibility to implement its electoral programmes.

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Harouni said that the movement's shura council was prepared to engage in dialogue with a host of the country's political parties, "except those who questioned the [2011] revolution".

So far, it has held off from holding talks with Qalb Tounes, led by the media magnate and populist Nabil Karoui, and the Free Constitutional Party, led by Abir Moussi, an avowed apologist for the regime of former strongman Zein el-Abedine Ben Ali.

Qalb Tounes came second in the 6 October poll, winning 38 seats, while Moussi’s party managed to get 17.

In the shock vote, Nidaa Tounes, Ennahda's former coalition partner, won only three seats, down from 86 in the 2014 election.

Since the election, only the Conservative Karama coalition, which has 21 seats, has agreed to enter into a coalition with Ennahda.

Incumbent Prime Minister Youssef Chahed's Tahya Tounes party, the Attayar party and the Achaab Movement have all held off holding talks with the self-described Muslim democrats.

Fractured parliament

Tunisia's new parliament is set to convene on Wednesday, and the post of prime minister, who forms a government and manages most portfolios, should be chosen in the coming weeks.

Any political deadlock resulting from the sharply fragmented parliament could complicate Tunisia's efforts to address chronic economic problems that include a large public debt and 15 percent unemployment.

If Ennahda cannot form a government by early December, the president can ask another party to try. If it also fails and the deadlock persists, there will be another election.

Ghannouchi and several other Tunisian intellectuals founded the Islamic Tendency Movement in 1981, which became Ennahda in 1989, after being inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The party was persecuted under the Ben Ali government and that of his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba, with Ghannouchi forced to live in exile in the UK for 20 years.

He returned home after the so-called Arab Spring uprisings to a triumphant welcome, with Ennahda securing 37 percent of the vote in the county's first post-revolution election in 2011.

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