Tunisian minister 'will resign in the absence of free polls'

20th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

A newly appointed Tunisian minister and former opposition leader has pledged to resign if "free and fair elections" are not held in the coming months.

Ahmed Nejid Chebbi, the new regional development minister, also told the BBC late Wednesday that moderate Islam could play a part in Tunisian politics in the wake of the overthrow of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"Of course I will resign if I begin to doubt that it will not be free and fair elections in six or seven months," said Chebbi, leader of the former opposition Progressive Democrat Party (PDP).

"I am not the only person who will resign -- all the people who came to this unity government will resign if the elections are not free and fair, or if the measures we've decided will not be carried on immediately."

He spoke in favour of integrating "moderate political Islam" into Tunisia's political system and said the prime minister had been in talks with the country's main Islamist party, the banned Ennahdha (Awakening).

"Look at Morocco -- they integrated moderate political Islam and they got stability. Moderate political Islam has a place in Tunisia," said Chebbi.

The exiled head of Ennahdha, Rached Ghannouchi, has previously said he is planning to return to Tunisia from Britain.

Chebbi speculated that other countries in the Arab world were looking to Tunisia after the overthrow of former strongman Ben Ali and "thinking that they can follow the Tunisian example."

"Something will happen in the Arab world, and this is why we want to succeed and carry on our programme of transition to democracy in Tunisia because we don't have the right to fail," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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