Tunisian PM announces coalition cabinet

Ennahda had warned it would vote against a line-up that included none of its members

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Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid on Monday presented a new coalition government with a cabinet dominated by the secular Nidaa Tounes party but also including members from its Islamist rivals.

"We have made changes ... to widen the composition of the government with the participation of other political parties," Essid said after the moderate Islamist Ennahda party had warned it would vote against a line-up that included none of its members.

“I made some adjustments so we can gather all political forces and get to work immediately on the challenges we are facing,” Essid said.

Essid’s new government will have to push through tough economic reforms demanded by Tunisia’s international lenders and continue a campaign against Islamist militants.

Lawmakers will vote this week on whether to ratify the new government.

Nidaa Tounes member Slim Chaker was named finance minister, and Taib Baccouche, also from Nidaa Tounes, will be foreign minister. Ennahda was given employment ministry and several other junior minister posts.
“We are going to vote for this government. It’s a representative one,” said Ennahda lawmaker Walid Bannani. “Its not about how many posts one has, its about how diverse the government is to represent all Tunisians.”

Four years after its uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has been held up as an example of political compromise and democratic transition with a new constitution and free elections.

Consensus deal-making has been a key part of keeping the country on track during the sometimes messy transition.

In the 217-seat parliament, Nidaa Tounes holds 86 seats and its ally, the liberal, secular UPL party has 16 seats. Ennahda holds 69 seats, the Popular Front 15 and Afek Tounes eight. Essid needs the support of 109 members to ratify his government.

With its political transition complete, Tunisia’s new government must tackle high public spending and political sensitive reforms to subsidies. Jobs, high living costs and economic opportunities are the main worry for most Tunisians.

Security is also key. Tunisia’s armed forces are cracking down on Islamist militants who emerged after the 2011 revolution and have carried out attacks mostly on the military. Tunisia is also a major source of jihadi fighters traveling to Syria.

(With AFP, Reuters)

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