Tunisia Makes New Bid to Form Elusive Government Amid Rifts

(Bloomberg) -- Tunisia’s president named a former finance minister to pull together a new government, in a fresh bid to build consensus in the North African nation battling deep political rifts and an ailing economy.

Elyes Fakhfakh’s appointment is the latest bid by President Kais Saied to kick-start a stalled political reform after his earlier choice, Habib Jemli, was unable to win parliamentary approval for his proposed cabinet. Critics dubbed his cabinet pick as bloated and said it offered nothing new.

The nomination of Fakhfakh, a member of the social democratic party Ettakatol, comes more than three months after presidential and legislative elections sent a resounding message that Tunisians were tired of establishment politics. Successive governments after the 2011 uprising that sparked the Arab Spring revolts have failed to deliver much beyond broken promises.

Fakhfakh, in a statement released by the presidency late Monday, said his government would combine “competence and strong political will for the national principles and the goals of the glorious revolution.” He vowed it would work to “end decades of poverty and marginalization.”

The challenges are daunting.

With no single party holding a majority in parliament, Jemli failed to win over lawmakers opposed to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party that selected him. Ennahda holds the most parliamentary seats, but opponents say it’s more focused on dogma and its own interests than reform.

Fakhfakh, who’s 48 and faces a similar uphill battle, has one month to form a government, the presidency said.

In the October elections, mainstream candidates took a drubbing as the public vented its anger against a squabbling elite its accuses of failing to make good on the promises of the 2011 uprising.

Saied, himself an outsider, has vowed a fresh start. Much, however, depends on forming a viable government to revive the economy that’s struggled since the uprising and which took a further beating as a result of terrorist attacks, protests led by powerful labor unions and a dearth of foreign investment.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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