Embattled Tunisia Edges Closer to Elusive Government

(Bloomberg) --

Tunisia’s prime minister on Thursday unveiled a proposed government of technocrats, including a veteran Finance Ministry official, which authorities hope will help end the political limbo delaying sorely-needed reforms in the North African nation.

Prime Minister-designate Habib Jemli tapped Abderrahmane Kochtali, the Finance Ministry’s secretary-general, to head the key ministry, while veteran diplomat Khaled Shili, a former ambassador to Jordan, would take the Foreign Ministry.

The proposed cabinet mostly comprises independents -- an apparent bid by Jemli to bridge a fractured parliament in which no one party holds the majority. He disclosed the names in a televised press conference almost 24 hours after he had submitted the list to President Kais Saied. Saied forwarded the list to parliament on Thursday.

Jemli was picked as prime minister in November by Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that won the most seats in the previous month’s legislative elections. None of the parties, however, won a majority and Jemli has struggled to draw up a coalition government because larger groups such as the populist Heart of Tunisia refused to join forces.

The prime minister-designate said Thursday he was “sure” the majority of parliament would support his choices.

Other cabinet nominees include:

  • Fadhel AbdelKafi: Planning, Development and International Cooperation Ministry
  • Hédi Kédiri: Justice Ministry; retired judge and former head of the Supreme Judicial Council
  • Sofien Sliti: Interior Ministry; currently spokesman of the country’s counter-terrorism judiciary body
  • Mongi Marzouk: Industry Ministry
  • Rene Trabelsi: retains Tourism Ministry

The lack of a clear winner in the legislative elections late last year reflected the challenges confronting Tunisia, whose 2011 uprising against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali triggered the Arab Spring revolts in the region.

Saied, himself a political outsider, was elected in a resounding chorus of voter rejection of the establishment. A constitutional law expert, he vowed to usher in a new era of change for the country.

But the results of the parliamentary vote and the subsequent bickering in coalition talks about forming a government had stunted any effort to enact change in a country that’s under pressure to cut spending and create desperately needed jobs.

At the same time, Tunisia, which secured a $2.9 billion IMF loan in 2016, is under pressure to cut costs while trying to appease an increasingly frustrated population clamoring for jobs and opportunities.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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