* Larayedh was interior minister in outgoing cabinet
* Choice of Ennahda party hardliner may anger opposition
* Marzouki's secular party has said it will join coalition
By Tarek Amara
TUNIS, Feb 22 Tunisia's prime minister-designate
Ali Larayedh, a hardliner from the main Islamist Ennahda party,
said on Friday he hoped to form a "government of all Tunisians",
but opposition leaders swiftly signalled discontent.
Tunisia plunged into political crisis on Feb. 6 when the
assassination of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid on
Feb. 6 ignited the biggest street protests since the overthrow
of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.
President Moncef Marzouki asked Larayedh to draw up a
government within two weeks after he was formally nominated for
prime minister by Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi.
"We will start consultations to form a new government ... a
government of all Tunisians," Larayedh said in brief remarks
after meeting the secular president.
He urged political parties, trade unions, businessmen and
journalists to support his government to achieve the objectives
of the North African country's revolution and build democracy.
Ennahda's choice for prime minister raised hackles among
opposition parties, some of whom accuse Larayedh's Interior
Ministry of failing to curb Islamist violence, although he is
credited for acting firmly against al Qaeda-linked militants.
"The decision deepens the crisis because Larayedh headed the
ministry responsible for the killing of Belaid and violence that
has spread throughout the country," said Zied Lakhdar, a leader
in the Popular Front, in which Belaid was secretary-general.
The Interior Ministry and Ennahda have denied they had any
hand in Belaid's killing, which they have condemned.
Mahmoud Baroudi, a leader of the secular Democratic Alliance
opposition party, said Larayedh's appointment would aggravate
tensions and increase anger in the streets.
"He was responsible for leniency with Islamist violence
against human rights activists," he said, blaming Islamists for
disrupting opposition meetings and assassinating Belaid.
No one has claimed responsibility for Belaid's killing.
JAILED UNDER BEN ALI
Ennahda is the biggest party in the National Constituent
Assembly with 89 of its 217 seats. Marzouki's secular Congress
for the Republic party (CPR), the second largest with 29 seats,
has already said it will join a new Ennahda-led coalition.
Larayedh, 57, is viewed as part of Ennahda's hardline wing,
which rejects any role for parties linked to the Ben Ali era.
A maritime engineer, Larayedh spent 15 years in jail under
Ben Ali. He became interior minister when the previous
government was formed in December 2011.
Outgoing Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who resigned on
Tuesday, refused to head the next government after his own
Ennahda party rejected his plan for an apolitical technocrat
cabinet to prepare for elections.
He was seen as a moderate overruled by Ghannouchi, who says
the last election gave Ennahda a popular mandate to rule in a
power-sharing deal with moderate secular parties.
"Larayedh is not a man of consensus," said Nejib Chebbi,
leader of the secular Republican party. "He failed during his
work as head of the Interior Ministry."
Tunisia, whose transition from autocracy has so far been
far less violent than those in neighbouring Libya and Egypt,
faces rifts between Islamists and their opponents that threaten
the stability of its fledgling democracy and ailing economy.
Political uncertainty has put negotiations on a $1.78
billion loan from the International Monetary Fund on hold and
prompted Standard and Poor's to lower its long-term foreign and
local currency sovereign credit rating on Tunisia on Tuesday.
While Ennahda and Marzouki's CPR together would wield a
narrow majority in the assembly, Larayedh may seek additional
partners. The leftist Ettakatol party, which joined Jebali's
government, has not said if it will serve under Larayedh.
Hechmi Hamdi, leader of the moderate Islamist Popular
Petition party, which holds seven assembly seats, said his group
would stay in opposition, accusing Larayedh of responsibility
for the death of two prisoners on hunger strike and the torture
and ill-treatment of protesters in the restive Siliana region.