TUNIS Tunisia's prime minister replaced most state governors on Friday, bowing to a demand from secular parties to purge Islamists From key jobs before elections this year.
After a political crisis brought on by the killing of two opposition leaders last year, the ruling Islamist party stepped down to allow a caretaker government to take over until elections later this year under a new constitution.
The secular opposition accused the Ennahda Islamist party of placing party officials in senior state jobs just before it quit power, and had asked that the appointments be reviewed.
"Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa decided to change 18 out of 24 governors to overhaul the administration," Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said on the outcome of that review.
Ennahda leaders said they did not object to any review of their appointments but insisted the individuals should be judged by their performance, not party membership.
Under the agreement reached between Islamists and secularists, elections will be held during 2014, supervised by an independent body elected by parliament.
A successful election will be seen as proof Tunisia is managing its transition to democracy better than North African neighbors Egypt and Libya, still reeling from the aftermath of the "Arab Spring" revolts of 2011.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)