Tunisia crisis: Ruling Ennadha party takes to streets to defend Islamist-led government


A woman holds a sign reading 'We are all some Chokri Belaid' during a protest to pay tribute to the murdered Tunisian opposition leader on February 9, 2013, in Marseille, southern France.



Tunisia's ruling Ennadha party called a pro-government rally in the capital on Saturday, the day after tens of thousands of people turned out for the funeral of murdered opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

The mourners have demanded that Tunisia's Islamist leaders quit, though Ennadha has so far resisted the prime minister's efforts to dissolve the government and replace it with technocrats.

Ennadha's rally was due to take place Saturday afternoon on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis – Tunisia's equivalent of Egypt's Tahrir Square.

The party said the gathering was to defend the legitimacy of Tunisia's constituent assembly, the body in charge of drawing up a new constitution and in which Ennahda has a majority, and to "fight against [the political] violence" it accuses its opponents of using.

Ennadha also urged its supporters to decry "French interference," the Associated Press reported, after France's Foreign Minister Manuel Valls denounced Belaid's murder as an attack on the Tunisian revolution.

Soldiers and armored vehicles were deployed along the route of Saturday's march, though the capital was reported to be much calmer than the day before. Much of the city was on strike on Friday and as many as a million people came out onto the streets for Belaid's funeral, some of them clashing violently with police.

More from GlobalPost: Tunisia buries Chokri Belaid amid strike, protests

Tensions have been running high ever since Belaid was shot dead on Wednesday. Several of Belaid's relatives and fellow opposition members have blamed Ennadha for his death, though the party denies any involvement.

Belaid's widow, Besma Khalfaoui, told the BBC that she planned to file a lawsuit against Ennadha's leader, Rachid Ghannouchi.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali insists that he is determined to form a government of technocrats, despite opposition from Ennadha, his own party.

It's not yet clear whether the government will be dissolved, when elections will be held or whether the constituent assembly can continue its work: four opposition parties, including Belaid's, have withdrawn from it in protest at his assassination.