Tunisia ends months of deadlock and approves cabinet

Tunisia ends months of deadlock and approves cabinet
Tunisia ends months of deadlock and approves cabinet

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - After four months of wrangling among rival parties, Tunisia has a new government.

The Tunisian parliament voted 129-77 with one abstention to approve the government of Prime Minister-designate Elyes Fakhfakh early Thursday. A previous effort to form a government by a different prime minister failed last month.

The moderate Islamist party Ennahdha has six ministerial posts, more than any other party, because it came out on top in a parliamentary election in October. But it didn't win a majority and has struggled to reach compromise with other parties about who should run the government.

President Kais Saied had threatened to dissolve parliament and call a new election if it couldn't agree on a new government. Tunisian union and business leaders intervened, organising weeks of shuttle diplomacy to try to get rival parties to agree on a compromise solution.

Six of the 30 new government ministers are women, and for the first time one holds one of the most senior posts, Justice Minister Thouraya Jeribi.

Its rival, the secular Heart of Tunisia, didn’t back Mr Fakhfakh, and have been excluded from the cabinet.

“Ennahda likely decided that the costs of being blamed for government collapse outweighed the potential benefits of going towards new elections,” Eurasia Group, the New York-based risk consultancy, said after the party signaled its support last week. “The final result is a broad-based national unity government” reflecting a “delicate balancing act.”

The premier-designate’s cabinet picks include a former PriceWaterhouseCoopers associate, Nizar Yaiche, as finance minister, and Noureddine Erray, currently ambassador to Oman, in charge of foreign affairs. Mr Fakhfakh’s government is expected to take office on Friday.

Eurasia earlier described the situation as “a moderately positive outcome” for economic decision making, with the cabinet including “some competent technocrats.” But it warned “the government will likely be far from harmonious and its fractured support base will likely complicate and prolong negotiations over policy initiatives.”

The prime minister said the government's focus will be on boosting the digital economy and tackling unemployment and violent extremism. He also wants to combat widespread disillusionment nine years after Tunisian protesters overthrew their autocratic leader, built a new democracy and unleashed the Arab uprisings.

"If we have made significant progress on the road to democratization, we are still very far from social and economic transition," he told lawmakers during the debate.

He noted that nearly 1 million young people, including more than 200,000 with college degrees, are now unemployed, prompting many to leave the country — legally or illegally — to seek a better life elsewhere.

"The 11 million Tunisians must get to work and roll up their sleeves to build the country," he said.

Updated: February 27, 2020 05:57 PM

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