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'Egypt Scenario' Unfolding as Tunisia Crisis Deepens

Tens of thousands of protesters take to streets following suspension of government body

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Protests against Tunisia's Ennahda-led party, Tuesday Aug. 6, 2013 in Tunis. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)Tunisia reached a new level of political turmoil on Tuesday following an indefinite shutdown of the country's national assembly and the largest street protest since the country's crisis was revived two weeks ago by a second assassination of a leftist leader.

Reuters is reporting that the suspension of Tunisia's Constituent Assembly on Tuesday, as announced by assembly head Mustafa Ben Jaffar, secretary-general of the center-left party Ettakatol, could bring Tunisia "closer to an 'Egyptian scenario' in which the secular opposition topples an Islamist-led government."

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tunis on Tuesday calling for the ouster of the leading Ennahda party, which protesters say is to blame for the assassination of the leftist politician Mohamed Brahmi on July 25. Brahmi's assassination sparked the recent protest surge, as did as the assassination of leftist leader Chokri Belaid exactly six months ago that stemmed similar popular outrage.

Over 70 members of the Constituent Assembly had withdrawn two weeks ago in protest over the two killings and organized a sit-in outside the assembly headquarters, leading to the entire assembly suspension on Tuesday in response to the ongoing turmoil.

The suspension hits just weeks before the transitional body was scheduled "to finish a draft constitution and electoral law that would allow Tunisia to hold fresh elections by the end of the year," Reuters reports.

According to Al Jazeera, the turmoil is the worst political crisis since the toppling of autocratic ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, which lead to the "Arab Spring" uprisings around the world.

As Tunisian political analyst Sofian Ben Farha told Reuters, "The Egypt scenario is not far off and seems quite possible if the crisis continues."

"The mass mobilization and Ben Jaafar's decision [to suspend the assembly] will quickly bring us to what happened in Egypt," Sofian Chouarbi, an opposition activist who rose to prominence in the 2011 revolt, told Reuters.

In addition, similar to Egypt, there is a large pro-government population in support of the Ennahda party. On Saturday tens of thousands of pro-Ennahda protesters came out in support of the government, at times chanting, "No to coups, yes to elections."

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