Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid announced a new minority government Friday that excludes most of the major players on the political scene, including Islamist and leftist parties, AP reports:
The big winner in last year’s elections was the nationalist Nida Tunis party, but with only 86 of the 217 seats, it had promised to form a broad governing coalition to see the country out of its economic crisis. However, the 24 new ministers presented Friday appeared to come from only two parties that may not have enough seats to survive a no-confidence vote.
The cabinet includes 10 ministers from Nida Tunis, including the foreign minister, and three from the Free Patriotic Union Party, which holds 16 seats. Together the two parties will have less than half of the seats in parliament, which means they may have difficulty implementing the necessary reforms to tackle Tunisia’s titanic economic problems like high inflation and unemployment.
The Islamist party Ennahda, with the second largest number of seats in the assembly, had sought a unity government with Nidaa Tounes to improve stability with the new government set to crack down on Islamist militants and tackle economic reforms, Reuters adds:
Nidaa Tounes leaders had not openly opposed a unity administration. But Nidaa Tounes hardliners were against any alliance with Ennahda, who they blame for turmoil during the first Islamist-led government after the 2011 uprising. Ennahda party leaders were consulting on Friday on whether to accept the new government.
The Ministry of Tourism, a key sector that has struggled since the 2011 revolt that ousted long-time strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was given to a party headed by the owner of one of Tunis’s two major football clubs, AFP adds:
The Free Patriotic Union of wealthy businessman Slim Riahi, who owns Club Africain, was also given the ministry of sports and youth. Riahi’s party came third in the polls
A major external challenge facing Ennhada is its lack of governing experience, says analyst Monica Marks. Senior party members understand the need to reform the nation’s bureaucratic culture but have not yet identified how to implement such a change, she told the Project for Middle East Democracy:
The rise of Salafism within the country presents another challenge. This movement, which has violent elements, encompassed many types of Salafists. Ennhada initially struggled to respond to this challenge before settling upon increasing funding for religious education and socio-economic programs to address this situation. Marks also pointed out internal challenges that have threatened the cohesiveness of the party, such as whether or not to form a coalition government with Nidaa Tunis officials and personnel from the Ben Ali regime.