Political deadlock as Tunisia PM refuses to quit
TUNIS - Tunisia's prime minister has refused to resign and wants parliament to decide his fate, creating a political deadlock over President Beji Caid Essebsi's plan to form a new unity government.
Habib Essid stood his ground a few weeks after Essebsi called for negotiations on a unity government he believes would overcome coalition tensions that have blocked headway towards much-needed economic reforms.
"Prime Minister Habib Essid has chosen to go to parliament," Essebsi said in a speech on Wednesday after the premier insisted on leaving a decision on his future to lawmakers.
Tunisia's current ruling coalition has struggled to generate more growth and jobs since a series of Islamist militant attacks gutted the North African state's tourism industry.
Essebsi said last month Tunisia needed a bolder, more determined government to carry out the necessary reforms. "It is time for a change, and for audacity. We need a more courageous alternative that can apply the law and fight unemployment."
Tunisia's key parties are now expected to resume negotiations to choose a new premier ahead of a likely parliamentary no-confidence vote in Essid, which would require a simple majority to pass.
Tunisia has emerged as a political model for democratic change in the Arab world since its 2011 uprising that overthrew autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
But economic liberalisation demanded by foreign lenders to tackle high unemployment and frustration among its young over their lack of opportunities have lagged behind the political progress.