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Tunisia: Najla Bouden Romdhane named first female PM

September 29, 2021

Two months after firing her predecessor and suspending parliament, President Saied tapped the engineering researcher to form a government.

Tunesian Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane
Not much is known about academic Najla Bouden Romdhane outside of TunisiaImage: Tunisian Presidency/REUTERS

Two months after seizing power, Tunisia's President Kais Saied named Najla Bouden Romdhane as his prime minister, making her the first woman in the country's history to hold that office.

"The President of the Republic, Kais Saied, charged Najla Bouden with forming a government as quickly as possible," read a statement from his office published on Facebook.

Not much is known about the engineering academic who used to work for the World Bank, and Saied did not provide any more details about his decision.

Democracy in doubt

Najla Bouden Romdhane is entering the top ranks of Tunisia's political scene in a moment of crisis, two months after Saied suspended parliament and dismised the then-Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi in a move described by his critics as a "coup."

Prior to the 2019 Tunisian presidential campaign, Saied was a respected constitutional law professor seen by many as an antidote to official corruption. His candidacy saw supporters from across the political spectrum, including both Islamists and leftists.

However, since coming to power, he has been criticized for police brutality and poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the country's economic crisis, from which many parallels have been drawn to the financial woes that sparked the country's 2011 revolution. 

In January, a wave of protests against Saied's administration began in the capital Tunis, leading to violent crackdowns and the suspension of parliament on July 25. Last week, he announced his intention to rule by decree.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Saied by phone, underscoring the importance of democracy for the stability of the country, and arguing that a return to "parliamentary democracy in dialogue with all political actors was essential," according to a statement by her spokesman Steffen Seibert.

es/aw (AFP, Reuters)