Tunisia's Islamist Leader Calls on Egyptians to Avoid Violence

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TUNIS -- The leader of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party called on Egyptians on Thursday not to react with violence to the government crackdown in Cairo but to overcome military dictatorship through peaceful protest.

The party leader, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, speaking at a news conference in Tunis, the capital, also appealed to Tunisians to draw lessons from events in Egypt and find a way to resolve their own political crisis through dialogue, or risk chaos.

As the leader of Ennahda, the last remaining Islamist party that came to power in the Arab Spring and is still governing, Mr. Ghannouchi has repeatedly warned of the challenges facing the Islamist movement and the danger that the Arab world would slide into violent confrontation. He reminded followers that the Muslim Brotherhood had not turned to violence throughout decades of repression, and should not do so now.

He said some people had celebrated Wednesday's massacres in Cairo, and he warned his fellow Muslims not to rise to their bait. "Your peacefulness will overcome the bullets and massacres, and from your blood freedom will flourish and also democracy and progress in our country," he said. "So do not fall into the trap of violence as a reaction, or react to the savage violence that you endured, regardless of the sacrifices and the casualties."

"The biggest democracy in the region collapsed yesterday," he said, urging Tunisians to stand as testimony that the Arab Spring could endure.

"The Tunisian candle is the only candle left in the Arab Spring, and this is entrusted to all of us Tunisians to preserve it and to prove that Arabs can have democracy, and Tunisia is a witness," he said.

Tunisia is in its worst political crisis since the revolution of 2011. After two political assassinations in six months, opposition groups have demanded that the government resign and be replaced by a government of technocrats or independent figures to lead the country into national elections, scheduled for Dec. 17.

After 65 opposition figures withdrew from the National Constituent Assembly in July, the legislative body was suspended, stalling all further work on drafting of the Constitution and election laws.

Ennahda, which leads a coalition government together with two smaller secular parties, has opposed the dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly, the only elected body in the country. Mr. Ghannouchi warned that dissolving the Assembly and the coalition government, which holds a majority of seats in the Assembly, would leave a vacuum of power and invite chaos.

He also rejected the proposal for a National Salvation Front government to replace the coalition government, saying that a new government would have less popular support and only delay the transition to a full-fledged democratic system.

He called for a swift return to business to complete the Constitution and election laws by Oct. 23, the second anniversary of the creation of the Constituent Assembly, and hold elections by the end of the year. Ennahda would drop all outstanding issues on the Constitution as well as a controversial proposal to exclude members of the prerevolutionary government from running for office.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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