Tunisia: PM announces partial cabinet reshuffle

Struggling to resolve the country’s economic problems, Youssef Chahed brings new blood amid political crisis.

Youssef Chahed
Key portfolios such as finance, foreign and the interior ministries were kept unchanged [Mohamed Messara/EPA-EFE]

Tunisia‘s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has appointed 13 new ministers in a partial cabinet reshuffle that he hopes will bring new blood to his government, widely criticised for failing to resolve the country’s economic problems.

But key portfolios such as finance, foreign and the interior ministries were kept unchanged.

Since the toppling of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia’s economy has been in crisis and nine cabinets have failed to resolve economic problems, including high inflation and unemployment.

“This reshuffle is to make the work of government more effective and to put an end to the political and economic crisis,” Chahed said in a statement.

The announcement, made in a speech on state television late on Monday, included the appointment of Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi from the Island of Djerba as minister of tourism.

He is the third member of the Jewish community – numbered at about 2,000 – to enter the cabinet since Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956.

Kamel Morjan, who served as foreign minister under Ben Ali, became the new minister in charge of the public sector, the country’s main employer.

Political crisis

A political crisis within the ruling Nidaa Tounes party has complicated the country’s efforts to move out of the current economic quagmire, with President Beji Caid Essebsi’s son, Hafed Caid Essebsi – who is the party’s leader – insisting that Chahed step down or go to parliament for a vote of confidence. 

In a sign of the distrust inside the party, President Beji Caid Essebsi rejected the cabinet reshuffle, saying he had been informed too late about it without prior consultation, according to his spokeswoman, Saida Garrach.

Essebsi cannot stop the reshuffle, however. To be finalised, the changes must be approved by parliament, where Chahed is backed by a majority of the members, including the Muslim Democrat Ennahdha party.

Tunisia has been hailed for its democratic transition since the 2011 Arab Spring, but the North African country has been hit by an economic crisis and armed attacks since then.

Source: News Agencies