Tunis: Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Al Nahda party may choose a candidate from outside its ranks to head government, two sources said on Friday, as it seeks consensus with other parties for a coalition.

Following victory in last month’s parliamentary election, Al Nahda will be the biggest party but with only 52 of 217 seats, forcing it to compromise to form a cabinet. Al Nahda is expected to reveal its choice for prime minister by the next week. If it cannot form a government within two months, the president can ask another group to try. If that fails and the deadlock persists, there will be another election.

It had previously decided one of its leaders should be prime minister because of the electoral mandate.

But that was not accepted by potential partners: Attayar with 22 seats, Achaab’s Movement with 16 seats and current Prime Minister Yousuf Chahed’s Tahya Tounes party with 14.

Only the Conservative Karama coalition, with 21 seats, agreed.

“There is possibility that a figure from outside the party will be nominated to head the next government,” a senior Al Nahda official told Reuters.

“Al Nahda is likely to accept the presidency of parliament and approve an independent figure that can win the confidence of all parties involved in the coalition.” The party was due to discuss the issue on Saturday and Sunday, the official added.

Another political source said there is no shortlist, but added that former parliament speaker Mustafa Ben Jaafar and two former finance ministers Elyes Fakhfakh and Fadel Abdul Kefi were among potential candidates.

Al Nahda has excluded two parties from talks: Heart of Tunisia, which holds 38 seats and is led by the media magnate Nabil Karoui, and the Free Constitutional Party led by Abir Moussa, with 17 seats, which opposes the Islamists.