- POSTED: 15 Dec 2013 06:47
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Tunisia's political parties chose Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa on Saturday to head a government of independent figures aimed at pulling the country out of a months-long crisis, the principal mediator said.
TUNIS: Tunisia's political parties chose Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa on Saturday to head a government of independent figures aimed at pulling the country out of a months-long crisis, the principal mediator said.
"Dialogue and discussions led to a vote and the choice of Mehdi Jomaa as the candidate for the post of head of government," said Houcine Abassi, secretary general of the powerful UGTT trade union.
"Our people have waited for a long time, but despite the difficulties and obstacles... this dialogue has not failed," he said, adding his "congratulations to Tunisia."
Of the 21 parties participating in the talks, only the Nidaa Tounes party rejected the choice and abstained in the vote.
Jomaa, a relative unknown, is a 51-year-old engineer with no stated political affiliation. He is married and has five children.
He graduated from Tunis' National School for Engineers in 1988 before taking a higher degree in mechanics, his official biography published in March by state news agency TAP said.
He then went on to a career in the private sector, and headed a division of Hutchinson, the aerospace unit of French conglomerate Total.
He became industry minister following the formation in March of a new government by Ali Larayedh in the crisis that erupted following the assassination a month earlier of key opposition figure Chokri Belaid.
Since then, Jomaa has stayed aloof from the country's political jockeying and focused on his portfolio. In particular, he has lobbied European firms to invest in the country, plagued by economic woes since the ouster nearly three years ago of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
But he has also taken the unpopular step of backing a decision to raise fuel prices next year.
Jomaa was chosen a day after the candidate agreed on by the outgoing Islamist-led government and the mostly secular opposition, 92-year-old Mustapha Filali, ruled himself out due to his age.
The latest crisis was sparked by the murder in July of another opposition politician, Mohammed Brahmi, which triggered calls for the resignation of the coalition government led by moderate Islamists Ennahda.
Under a roadmap brokered by mediators in October, Ennahda and the opposition pledged to negotiate an interim government of independents.
The interim premier should have been agreed on by early November, but the deadline has been pushed back repeatedly since then.