Tunisia: Habib Jemli tasked with forming a new government

The 60-year-old former junior minister has two months to establish a coalition out of a fractured Parliament.

Tunisia's President Kais Saied (L) receives Habib Jemli at the presidential palace in Carthage [AFP]
Tunisia's President Kais Saied (L) receives Habib Jemli at the presidential palace in Carthage [AFP]

Tunisia‘s recently elected President Kais Saied has tasked agricultural engineer Habib Jemli with forming a government after the Ennahdha party nominated him for the prime minister’s job.

After the announcement on Friday, Jemli said cabinet members will be chosen on “their competence and integrity, regardless of their political affiliation”, in a video posted on the presidency’s Facebook page. 

Jemli, who described himself as an independent, served as a junior minister in the first Ennahda-led government formed in late 2011 after the fall of longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to a pro-democracy uprising. 

The 60-year-old has two months to form a coalition out of a deeply fractured Parliament in which Ennahdha, as the largest party, took only a quarter of the seats in last month’s election. In case Jemli fails, Saied will nominate another prime minister.

Tunisia‘s new Parliament on Wednesday elected Ennahdha’s Rached Ghannouchi as its speaker after the rival Heart of Tunisia party backed him, opening the way for a possible coalition government between them.

Any new government will need the support of at least two other parties to command even the minimum parliamentary majority of 109 seats needed to pass legislation.

‘I hope this will be a new start’ 

Analysts say the new government will need clear political will and strong backing in Parliament to push through economic reforms started by the outgoing prime minister, Youssef Chahed, who is acting as caretaker during coalition talks.

Chahed’s cabinet has focused on spending cuts backed by the IMF to bring Tunisia’s hefty deficit and public debt under control while raising spending on security to woo back tourists to the country.

Economic challenges – unemployment of 15 percent nationally and 30 percent in some cities, inflation of nearly seven percent and a weak dinar – have plagued Tunisia since its 2011 revolution, which spawned democracy and sparked the “Arab Spring” that swept across the region.

Those problems, alongside deteriorating public services and a public perception of widespread government corruption, drove voters to reject the political establishment in this autumn’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

“I hope that it will be a new start. After we completed democratic transition, the focus will be on development, fighting against corruption, unemployment and high prices,” Ghannouchi said on Friday.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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