Noomane Fehri interview after The New Arab Debates in Tunis on 4 March 2013 with Tim Sebastian
MOTION: This House believes Tunisia is heading out of control
FOR THE MOTION: Noomane Fehri from Al Joumhouri
AGAINST THE MOTION: Amel Azzouz from Ennahda
Tunis, March 4, 2013 - An angry and emotional audience at a public forum here has heaped criticism on Tunisia's ruling politicians, accusing them of allowing the country to slide towards dangerous instability.
The latest session of The New Arab Debates provoked heated arguments between panelists and the majority young Tunisian participants who repeatedly attacked the government for failing to halt the violent clashes that have spread nation-wide.
The audience voted 67% in favour of the motion: "This House believes Tunisia is heading out of control", in a debate, marking the return of the free-speech programme to Tunis after it halted operations last May.
The group had objected strongly to police removing a list of attendees from one of the debates, but said the Interior Ministry had since welcomed them back to the country and confirmed they could work freely and without interference.
The latest debate pitted two deputies from the National Constituent Assembly against each other - Noomane Fehri from the opposition Al Joumhouri Party, who argued for the motion and Amal Azzouz, politburo member from Ennahda, the dominant Islamist party, who spoke against it.
Both were pushed hard to explain why they have agreed to stay on in an assembly whose one-year term expired last November.
The crowd cheered when a young woman told Azzouz that Ennahda was "forging a new dictatorship". They also clapped when a member of the audience said the opposition was using the recent assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid to drum up support ahead of elections, expected later this year.
Azzouz acknowledged that there had been incitement to violence in some mosques but insisted the authorities were doing their best to control the rhetoric from the pulpits.
"We need patience and we need to find a balance between freedom and responsibility," said Azzouz, a university professor.
"All institutions are learning in this transition, even the security forces," she argued, stressing that the opposition refused to accept that Islamists are now in power.
Fehri, denied the charge, saying that Tunisia needed both the Islamists and the opposition, "the two legs" that he said were essential to the country's stability.
In a rare moment of agreement, Azzouz declared: "If we want to get out of this crisis, then dialogue and nothing but dialogue and accepting each other is what is needed".
Both debates will be transmitted for the second consecutive year on Deutsche Welle TV in Arabic and English along with its global network of partner channels.
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