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Ghannouchi is ready for referendum to end Tunisia crisis

Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia's Al-Nahda Party has expressed its readiness for a popular referendum if protesters insist on demonstrating against the Islamist-led government. The move is an attempt to bolster the party's confidence against opponents who demand the dissolution of the government and the Constituent Assembly.


The assassination of secular opposition member Mohammed Brahmi ten days ago sparked the worst political crisis in the country since protesters toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali more than two years ago in a popular uprising. Ghannouchi told Reuters that his party was open to dialogue with all political parties but it does not accept preconditions.

Al-Nahda's leader, who returned to Tunisia after the revolution in 2011, said that it may be possible to withdraw or postpone the "political isolation law", which allows the exclusion from politics of those who worked with the former regime if the political parties arrive at an agreement. The secular opposition, however, insists that it will accept nothing less than the government and Constituent Assembly being dissolved and replaced by an independent "salvation" government. Such a move has been described by Ghannouchi as a "red line" across which the government will not go.

"Instead," said Ghannouchi, "if the opposition insist on terminating the transitional process let's put it to the people in a popular referendum."

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