Tunisian party suspends participation in coalition deal after " Caliphate" talk

Updated: 2011-11-16 18:14:00

(Xinhua)

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TUNIS, November 16 (Xinhua) -- Ettakatol, one of Tunisia's leading parties, has suspended its participation in the coalition-building talks, after the head of another party called for the revival of a "Caliphate" in the country, the official press agency TAP reported Wednesday.

Head of Ettakatol Mustapha Ben Jaafar said Tuesday that he was asking for clarifications from Hamadi Jebali, secretary general of Tunisia's main Islamist party Ennahdha, for the latter's evocation for the advent of a "sixth Caliphate", or the Islamic rule based on the Sharia, during a party rally in Sousse over the weekend.

Jebali, who is widely believed to become Tunisia's new prime minister after his party's sweeping win in the latest Constituent Assembly elections, told his supporters at the rally that the country was "in a sixth Caliphate, God willing."

The remarks sparked outrage among Tunisian secularists and complicated Ennahdha's talks with other parties, including Ettakatol, on the formation of a coalition government.

In response to the outrage, Jebali said Wednesday in a statement that his words had been quoted "out of context" and wrongly interpreted.

In spite of Ennahdha's suspension in the talks, media reported that Ennahdha and the Congress for the Republic (CPR) party, the second winner in the elections, had reached an agreement to appoint the CPR head Moncef Marzouki as the country's new president.

Shortly after Ennahdha's win in the October 23 elections, one of the party leaders, Rached Ghannouchi said that the Islamist party would respect the country's secular laws as long as they "agreed with Islamic principles." He also reassured the Western leaders that the party would uphold the rights of women and secularists.

However, rights activists pointed to the ambivalence in Ennahdha's discourse, expressing fears of a slow erosion of individual rights in the country where secularists are still staunchly opposed to religious policies.