Tunisia has approved a government led by the secular Nidaa Tounes and including Islamist rivals. The parliament's vote comes after landmark free elections last fall in the birthplace of the Arab revolutions of 2011.
Tunisian parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur welcomed what he called "a comfortable majority" in Thursday's vote of confidence. Out of 204 MPs who attended the session of the 217-member parliament, 166 voted in favor of the government, 30 against and eight abstained.
Before the vote, Prime Minister Habib Essid withdrew an earlier list of ministers that had excluded the moderate Islamist faction Ennahda and given all posts to members of his nationalist Nidaa Tounes party. The prime minister presented his adjusted program to parliament Wednesday, focusing on securing the country against terrorist threats and controlling runaway inflation.
"The motto of this government will be work, then work, and nothing other than work," pledged Essid, an independent.
Nidaa Tounes, the winner of parliamentary elections last October, holds six portfolios in the new government, including the finance and foreign affairs ministries. The party also won the presidential runoff in December, and saw Beji Caid Essebsi inaugurated at the end of the year.
The interior, defense and justice departments go to independents. Ennahda will take the Labor Ministry and three secretary of state posts. The leftist Popular Front, which opposed any Islamist participation in the government, voted against Essid on Thursday, and will likely form the main opposition in parliament.
The Cabinet replaces Mehdi Jomaa's interim technocratic government, in power for just over a year after an Ennahda-led coalition stepped down in a bid to end a 2013 standoff sparked by angry demonstrations in response to the assassinations of two leftist politicians. The protests had led to fears that Tunisia's nascent democracy might head toward the instability that has hit other post-revolution Arab states.
Tunisians overthrew the autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, following protests that began in 2010, the first in what became a transnational populist revolution in many Arab countries. Similar uprisings in Syria, Yemen and neighboring Libya have all led to conflict, while Egypt saw an Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, elected and deposed by the army within a year.
Following the overthrow of Ben Ali, Tunisia saw four years of stormy transition as the country's political establishment adjusted to life without the strongman. The assembly that approved the government on Thursday is the first elected under the country's new democratic constitution.
mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)