New government in tunisia: mechichi wins trust

In Tunisia, the parliament has installed a new government. It is already the third in just one year. The previous interior minister will become prime minister.

First interior minister, now prime minister of Tunisia: Hichem Mechichi Photo: Chokri Mahjoub/ZUMA Press/imago

In the midst of a serious political crisis, the Tunisian parliament has elected a new government. The previous interior minister and new prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, and his cabinet received the votes of 134 of the 217 deputies after a roughly 15-hour session Wednesday morning. 67 voted against the government. It is mainly composed of civil servants, private executives and academics.

Following the resignation of Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh in July, head of state Kais Saied had appointed Mechichi, who has no party affiliation, to form a new government. Mechichi had been appointed interior minister in the old government in February. Fakhfakh was the seventh prime minister since the fall of strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

This is the third cabinet in Tunisia since this parliament was elected last year. Tunisia’s parliament had only accepted Fakhfakh’s government in February. Several attempts to form a government after last October’s election had failed. The established parties were punished in the parliamentary election in October 2019. The result is a fractured parliament.

Mechichi had a month to assemble his government. Seven days before Tuesday’s session, he had presented his government of technocrats to parliament. This one "will indeed be a government for work and performance," Mechichi said Tuesday in his speech to parliament. It will seek "unconventional and innovative solutions" to reduce spending, he said.

Economic problems

The two major parties, "Kalb Tounes" (Heart of Tunisia) and the Islamic conservative Ennahda, had decided Tuesday night to vote for the government. With fewer than 109 votes, President Saied could have dissolved the assembly and called early elections for early 2021.

The North African country is struggling with major economic problems. About 40 percent of Tunisians suffer from poverty, according to official figures. Youth unemployment is particularly high. Almost one in three university graduates cannot find a suitable job. Recently, the numbers of corona infections had also risen.

The European Union expressed its desire to work closely with the new government and maintain its "privileged partnership with Tunisia." They welcomed the new Tunisian government and hoped "that this development will ensure the political stability the country needs to face its socioeconomic challenges, which are exacerbated by the corona pandemic," a commission spokesman said.

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