Tunisia approves government after months of deadlock

Fakhfakh called for a "new contract" to fix Tunisia's woes and described his government as one of "national reconciliation."
Wednesday 26/02/2020
Tunisia's Prime Minister-designate Elyes Fakhfakh (bottom R) sits with members of his proposed, during a plenary session in the capital Tunis, February 26. (AFP)
Tunisia's Prime Minister-designate Elyes Fakhfakh (bottom R) sits with members of his proposed, during a plenary session in the capital Tunis, February 26. (AFP)

TUNIS - Tunisia has a new government at last, after four months of arguing among rival parties.

After a 15-hour debate, the Tunisian parliament voted 129-77 with one abstention to approve the government of Prime Minister-designate Elyes Fakhfakh early Thursday. A previous effort to form a government by a prime minister designated by the Islamist Ennahda party failed last month.

Ennahdha has six ministerial posts, more than any other party, in the Fakhfakh cabinet because it came out on top in a parliamentary election in October. But it didn't win a majority and has struggled to reach compromise with other parties over who should run the government.

President Kais Saied had threatened to dissolve parliament and call a new election if there was no agreement on a new government. Tunisian union and business leaders intervened, organising weeks of shuttle diplomacy to try to get rival parties to agree on a compromise solution.

Six of the 30 new government ministers are women, and for the first time one holds one of the most senior posts, Justice Minister Thouraya Jeribi. 

The new prime minister called for a "new contract" to fix Tunisia's woes and described his government as one of "national reconciliation." He said the government's focus will be on boosting the digital economy and tackling unemployment and violent extremism. He also wants to combat widespread disillusionment nine years after Tunisian protesters overthrew the regime longtime President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

"If we have made significant progress on the road to democratisation, we are still very far from social and economic transition," he told lawmakers during the debate.

He noted that nearly 1 million young people, including more than 200,000 with college degrees, are now unemployed, prompting many to leave the country — legally or illegally — to seek a better life elsewhere.

"The 11 million Tunisians must get to work and roll up their sleeves to build the country," he said.

(With news agencies)