By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Friday, January 28, 2011
TUNIS: Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammad Ghannouchi kept his job Thursday in a reshuffle that replaced 12 ministers, purging the interim government of members of the ruling party including the interior, foreign and defense ministers.
“This government is a transitional, interim government that will remain until it completes its mission of taking the country to democracy,” Ghannouchi said in a live television address, after reading out the new lineup.
Ghannouchi said the new lineup had been agreed after consultations with all political parties and civil society groups and the ministers had been chosen for their high levels of experience and qualifications.
“This is a temporary government with a clear mission – to allow a transition to democracy. Its mission is to organize elections in which the people will be completely free to choose,” Ghannouchi said in his address.
He said the country’s first free elections will be organized by an independent body and monitored by international observers. “The situation is difficult and we must concentrate our efforts for the country to restart … I hope everyone will get back to work,” he said, after a wave of protests that came in the wake of Ben Ali’s downfall on Jan. 14.
Hundreds of protesters who have camped out in front of Ghannouchi’s offices for five days applauded and shouted with joy when they heard the news, but some of them still called for the resignation of Ghannouchi himself.
Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane announced his resignation saying he was leaving “so that the popular revolution can bear fruit.” He will be replaced by career diplomat Ahmad Ounais, a former ambassador to Moscow and New Delhi.
The Tunisian General Labor Union, which played a key role in anti-Ben Ali protests and has led opposition to the current government, said Thursday it would not be joining the new government lineup but approved of Ghannouchi staying in power.
Ghannouchi said the vote could be held within six months but has not given a date.
Protests continued Thursday in the capital Tunis as well as in Sidi Bouzid, a poor rural town in central Tunisia where rallies against Ben Ali’s regime began last month and escalated into a national movement.
Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the popular Ennahdha (Awakening) Islamist movement, meanwhile prepared to return to Tunisia Sunday after more than 20 years of forced exile, a spokesman for the movement in Paris told AFP. – Reuters, AFP