Tunisian Salafists
Tunisian SalafistsAFP/File

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government has agreed to step down following talks with the secular opposition.

The government will meet for talks with opposition groups over the next three weeks, after which it will be replaced by a caretaker government until elections can be held.

The decision follows weeks of tension and protests over the killing of two opposition figures, and the associated threat of growing Salafist extremism. The tension had threatened the stability of the newly democratic Tunisian government.

The current government, led by the Islamic Ennahda party, was elected in 2011 following the overthrow of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. His ouster kicked off the so-called “Arab Spring” and was followed by the ouster, or attempted ouster, of long-term leaders in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

Tunisian opposition activists had expressed hope of replicating Egypt’s second ouster – the overthrow of democratically elected Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi by the army, and the subsequent re-criminalization of the Muslim Brotherhood.  

Ennahda has been more moderate than the Muslim Brotherhood in agreeing to a power-sharing agreement, and not mentioning Sharia (Islamic law) in the constitution, but opposition groups have accused it of turning a blind eye to the activities of more radical Islamist groups.