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02.09.2020 Tunisia

Tunisia lawmakers approve new government

By AFP
Tunisia's prime minister-designate Hichem Mechichi delivers a speech as parliament readies for a confidence vote.  By Fethi Belaid (AFP)
LISTEN SEP 2, 2020
Tunisia's prime minister-designate Hichem Mechichi delivers a speech as parliament readies for a confidence vote. By Fethi Belaid (AFP)

Tunisia's parliament approved the country's third government in less than a year on Wednesday, overcoming discontent among lawmakers incensed by how the administration was formed and averting the threat of disruptive early elections.

Former interior minister Hichem Mechichi was confirmed as premier after his cabinet, dominated by independent technocrats, secured support from nearly two-thirds of the chamber's deputies overnight.

The 46-year-old has pledged to revitalise a tourism-reliant economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and said after the vote that his government would be able to "move forward" provided it was not bogged down in political tensions.

Tunisia's parliament is deeply divided and many lawmakers were angry that Mechichi bypassed the major political factions in building his cabinet.

But the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the biggest bloc in parliament, said hours before the vote that it would back Mechichi "despite reservations".

Tunisia's tourism-reliant economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic .  By FETHI BELAID (AFP) Tunisia's tourism-reliant economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic . By FETHI BELAID (AFP)

Political scientist Chokri Bahria, from the think tank Jossour, said Mechichi would be able to lead a government with "a support base that should allow it a few months of stability".

Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region in 2011, bringing down its long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But it is now mired in social and economic crisis, with the official unemployment rate at 18 percent, and in need of new assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

Mechichi, a lawyer by training, named judges, academics, public servants and business executives to his cabinet.

Ennahdha and others had instead demanded a "political" government that reflects the balance of parties and factions in parliament.

The chairman of Ennahdha's advisory board, Abdelkarim Harouni, said the party would back Mechichi "given the difficult situation of the country" but would then seek to "develop and reform this government".

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