TUNIS, Aug 27 — The new unity government of Youssef Chahed won resounding support from parliament yesterday, approving a new cabinet line-up which must tackle the country’s pressing socio-economic and security challenges.
After a long day of debate, the country’s legislature overwhelmingly approved Chahed’s line up, with 167 votes in favour, 22 against and five abstentions.
According to parliament’s spokesman Hassen Fathalli, the new cabinet is set to take office Saturday.
The handover between Chahed and his predecessor, former prime minister Habib Essid, will happen on Monday, Fathalli said.
At 40, Chahed will become the country’s youngest prime minister since it won independence from France in 1956.
But as Tunisia continues to find its bearings after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Chahed would also be the North African nation’s seventh premier in less than six years.
In a rousing speech ahead of the vote, Chahed stressed the “necessity” of his proposed unity government to address mounting economic challenges not resolved since the 2011 revolution.
“We have until now been unable to realise the objectives of the revolution. Our youth have lost hope, the trust of citizens in the state has decreased,” he said.
“We are all responsible” and “will all have to make sacrifices”, he added.
Chahed, whose speech was met with resounding applause, said his government would give priority to fighting corruption and “terrorism”.
While Tunisia is considered a rare success story of the Arab Spring, the authorities have failed to resolve the issues of poverty, unemployment, regional disparities and corruption that preceded Ben Ali’s fall.
Chahed will also have to address security after a wave of jihadist attacks, including two that killed dozens of foreign tourists last year.
The parliamentary vote of confidence for the unity government brings to an end some three months of intense negotiations.
President Beji Caid Essebsi said in June that he would support a government of national unity, faced with rising criticism of the government of Habib Essid.
Chahed was appointed prime minister-designate by Essebsi early this month after lawmakers passed a vote of no confidence in then-premier Habib Essid’s government following just 18 months in office.
Chahed, a member of Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party and a liberal who was local affairs minister before his nomination, has already overcome numerous reservations about his team — even among several allied parties.
His 27-strong cabinet is a diverse mix, drawing members from all sides of the political spectrum, including the Islamist Ennahda party, and includes eight women “in important” positions and “14 young” ministers.
The diversity should stand him in good stead, but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to overcome the country’s pressing economic and security challenges.
Many Tunisians have welcomed the nomination of a comparatively young premier — especially compared with other leaders since 2011.
President Essebsi is 89 years old, and ex-premier Essid is 67.
But even so, his government will have no grace period.
Growth is sluggish, public finances are a concern, and the country in January witnessed its worst social unrest since the 2011 uprising. — AFP