Bottom Line: The Islamist-led Ennahda government in Tunisia survived the first assassination of a political opposition leader in February, the 25 July assassination of a second opposition figure - Mohamed Brahmi--has led to mass protests from which it is not likely to recover.
Analysis: The key issue here is that the secular and moderate public has no faith in the government’s ability (and indeed political will) to root out radical Islamist forces in the name of security. The killing of a second opposition politician and a number of incidents in which Tunisian soldiers have been killed by radical forces in border areas has everyone on edge. The protests have continued for over two weeks and show no sign of letting up. One more key resignation will spell the final fate of the government. The protesters are calling for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, which Ennahda refuses to do. Last week, the government suspended the Assembly’s work until the two sides can engage in a dialogue on a national unity government. The protesters are not appeased by this move, and indeed say there is no legal basis for simply suspending the Assembly’s work. The protesters and opposition will not enter a dialogue until the government and the prime minister resign, while the government will not enter a dialogue conditional upon its own demise.
Recommendation: We see no return here for Ennahda as it is. The crisis has reached a turning point for which protesters will not now back down until Ennahda is either crushed or significantly incapacitated. The Assembly was close to finishing a draft constitution which was intended to be made into law in October to pave the way for elections in December. These two things have no chance of happening now in this timeframe, so we expect increasing instability and violence over the next several months. The only way things can move forward now is for the prime minister to step down and new talks to begin over a unity government. The fact that Tunisia’s military traditionally remains on the sidelines, unlike in Egypt, will likely prevent this from turning into a coup situation.