Tunisia parliament set for vote on new government

Tunis – Tunisia’s premier-designate called for “sacrifices” on Friday as parliament convened to vote on a cabinet line-up he has proposed to tackle pressing economic and security challenges.

It is likely that a majority of parliament’s 217 members will vote in favour of the line-up, making Youssef Chahed, at 40, 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 sixth premier in less than six years.

The prime minister-designate addressed the assembly on Friday morning ahead of the vote of confidence, which is not expected before 20:00.

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”.

Targeting terrorism

The premier-designate, 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.

If his government is approved, Chahed will also have to address security in the country after a wave of jihadist attacks, including two that killed dozens of foreign tourists last year.

Chahed was appointed by President Beji Caid Essebsi early this month after lawmakers passed a vote of no confidence in premier Habib Essid’s government following just 18 months in office.

On Saturday, Chahed – a member of Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party – said he would head a 27-member cabinet which will also include 14 ministers of state, eight women “in important” positions and “14 young” ministers.

The premier-designate said that the line-up would remain unchanged despite reservations among several allied parties.

Chahed, a liberal who was local affairs minister before his nomination, should get around 60 votes from the Nidaa Tounes party from which he hails.

He should also be able to count on the votes of 69 lawmakers from the Islamist Ennahda party, the largest in parliament.

Rached Ghannouchi’s party on Sunday said it had reservations over the line-up, in which it has three ministers, but said these would not prevent it from giving the proposed cabinet its vote of confidence.

Chahed may also win votes from the 24 lawmakers of the Al-Horra bloc, created after a split from Nidaa Tounes, and the 10 representatives of the liberal Afek Tounes party.

The vote on the new cabinet comes after Tunisia in January witnessed its worst social unrest since the 2011 uprising.