Tunisia's prime minister is stepping down after losing a confidence vote. The defeat comes after the president called for a new unity government to tackle challenges including a faltering economy and social tensions.
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid lost a confidence vote in parliament on Saturday, effectively dissolving the current government and paving the way for a new one that must push through delayed economic reforms.
The parties in the ruling coalition all announced last week that they would vote against the prime minister, who asked for the parliamentary vote of confidence on his government a week-and-a-half ago. In the end, the margin was overwhelmingly against Essid, with a total of 118 MPs voting to unseat him, while three voted for him to stay and 27 abstained.
Tunisia's coalition government is made up of Essid's Nidaa Tounes party, the Islamist Ennahda party, and Afek Tounes and UPL, two small liberal parties. Together, they hold more than 150 seats out of 217 in the parliament.
Pressure to quit
Essid, who has been prime minister since early last year, had been under pressure to step down ever since President Beji Caid Essebsi last month called for a new government of national unity to combat a faltering economy and quell social tensions.
In January, these problems led to Tunisia seeing its worst violence since the Arab Spring uprisings that led to the ouster of autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 after 23 years in power.
Since the Arab Spring rebellion, the country has been held up as a model for democratic change in the Arab world. But the government has failed to solve the problem of unemployment, which particularly affects young people.
Any new government will also have to tackle the issues of terrorism and corruption, as well as large disparities between the country's regions.
Tunisia saw two terror attacks on foreign tourists in 2015, one at the prestigious National Bardo Museum in the capital, Tunis, and another in the beach resort city of Sousse. Fifty-nine people died in those attacks, which were both claimed by the so--called "Islamic State."
A state of emergency, imposed in November when 12 presidential guards died in a suicide bombing that was also claimed by IS, is still in force.
tj, bw/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)