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Tunisia names old regime veteran as prime minister

January 5, 2015

Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essibsi has chosen Habib Essid, a bureaucrat under former dictator Ben Ali, as prime minister designate. The veteran politician has been tasked with forming a coalition government.

Newly-elected President Beji Caid Essebsi (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister-designate, Habib Essid (L), Carthage Palace, Tunis, Tunisia, 05 January 2015 (Photo: EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Mohamed Messara

The newly elected President Essibsi also asked Essid (pictured left) to name his cabinet within a month.

The 65-year-old prime minister designate was put forward by the country's secular Nida Tunis party after consultations with two smaller liberal outfits, the Free Patriotic Union and Afek Tunis. Nida Tunis says Essid was chosen for his political independence and expertise in managing security and economic matters.

"I had the honor of being received today by the president who tasked me with forming the new government," the prime ministerial nominee told the media at the presidential palace on Monday after meeting with Essibsi, who won Tunisia's first free presidential elections in November and was inaugurated last week.

Nida Tunis won the most votes in October 2014 elections but needs the support of several other parties in the parliament to gain a majority. The North African country's moderate Islamist party Ennahda, which came second in the polls, has not ruled out the possibility of joining a coalition.

"From today, we will start the consultations with the parties, national institutions and civil society," Essid said on Monday.

Essid worked as a top interior ministry civil servant under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown in a popular revolt in 2011. He also served as interior minister in an interim government led by anti-Islamist Essibsi after the Arab Spring revolution.

Economic stagnation and a rise in Islamist extremism are some of the main challenges facing the new government.

shs/tj (AP, dpa, AFP)