Another Premier Is Evicted as Tunisia Enters a New Crisis

Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned, in a move aimed at heading off a political crisis in the North African nation where the sputtering economy has been further battered by the coronavirus.

Fakhfakh’s decision came shortly after President Kais Saied requested he step down. A group of 105 lawmakers earlier filed a formal no-confidence motion against the premier, who’s been under fire for an alleged conflict of interest. He’ll remain in office until Saied picks a new candidate.

Fakhfakh said in a statement that he’d resigned “for the sake of national interest and to spare the country conflict of institutions.”

He took office in February after a predecessor nominated by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party failed to get the support of the fragmented assembly. Fakhfakh inherited a country that’s had at least nine governments since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as partisan politics stymied efforts to revive the economy

The prime minister initially fought back, targeting his detractors in Ennahda and announcing plans to re-shuffle the cabinet. Late Wednesday, the government said six Ennahda lawmakers had been removed from their roles heading the health, higher education, transport, youth and sports, equipment and housing, and local affairs portfolios. Acting ministers were appointed.

Fakhfakh’s decision to step down marks a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for the former engineer, who until this week had support from Saied as politicians from both the opposition and his own coalition piled on the pressure. The number of lawmakers who registered for the no-confidence motion was one and a half times that legally required for it to be accepted for debate.

The premier’s troubles began when he told a local TV channel he owns shares in a company that won a government contract after the 2019 election. He had pledged to resign if an investigation carried out by his anti-corruption minister found any wrongdoing.

His resignation came after a meeting attended by Saied, the leader of Ennahda and parliamentary speaker Rashid Ghannouchi, and the head of the powerful UGTT trade union, local broadcaster Mosaique FM said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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