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Tunisia's president appoints new government amid coup fears

October 11, 2021

President Kais Saied has sworn in a record number of women to Tunisia's new government. The move comes after he assumed new executive powers, with the opposition accusing him of a power grab.

Members of Tunisia's new government stand on the steps of a government building
Tackling corruption will be a major aim of the new government, according to the new prime ministerImage: Tunisian presidency/dpa/MAXPPP/picture alliance

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Monday appointed a new government, which features a record number of women ministers. 

The move comes as the Tunisian leader faces accusations from opposition parties of engaging in a power grab. Saied dismissed former Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on July 25 and announced last month that he will rule by decree.

Who is in the new government?

The Cabinet includes 25 members in total, with 10 of the ministers being women. Leila Jaffel will head the Ministry of Justice, for example, while Sihem Boughdiri Nemseya will continue in her role as finance minister. 

Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi, who took office in September 2020, will remain in his position. Taoufik Charfeddine was appointed interior minister after having previously served in that role from September 2020 to January of this year.

"I am confident we will move from frustration to hope," Saied said during the swearing-in ceremony, while adding that the main goal of the government is "to save the country."

How long will Saied's emergency powers last?

The Tunisian president said the extraordinary measures he has taken will last "as long as there is an imminent danger."

Tunisia's influential UGTT labor union has welcomed the new government and called for dialogue on a time limit regarding Saied's executive power.

Saied named Najla Bouden Romdhane, a former geology professor, as Tunisia's first female prime minister in late September. Yet, Saied's recent executive actions mean the government will ultimately answer to him rather than the prime minister. 

The moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the largest group in parliament, has labeled Saied's actions a "coup" and called on Tunisians to resist the measures. They claim the moves put Tunisia's nascent democracy at risk of becoming a dictatorship.

In 2011, Tunisians toppled the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled the country for nearly 24 years. In addition to an ongoing political crisis, Tunisia faces high public debt and unemployment, with the North African nation also struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

wd/nm (Reuters, AP, dpa)