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Tunisia new PM, first Arab woman tasked with forming government: Who is Najla Bouden?

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Tunisia’s President Kais Saied named on Wednesday Najla Bouden Romdhane as the first woman prime minister in the country’s and the Arab world’s history.

Saied tasked Romdhane, a political unknown, with forming a government within the next few days.

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Her appointment comes two months after Saied dismissed the previous prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authorities in a move described by his opponents as a coup.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane poses for a picture during her meeting with Tunisia's President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia September 29, 2021. (Reuters)
Newly appointed Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane poses for a picture during her meeting with Tunisia's President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia September 29, 2021. (Reuters)

Who is Najla Bouden Romdhane?

She is 63 years old; born in 1958 in Kairouan, Tunisia.

She holds a doctorate in geology From Paris School of Mines in earthquake engineering.

She is a higher education professor at the Tunis National School of Engineering, according to state news agency TAP.

She served as the World Bank's Program Implementation Officer at Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education.

In 2016, she was head of the management by objectives unit for the implementation of the higher education reform project.

In 2011, she was appointed Director General in charge of Quality at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Mixed reactions

Saied emphasized that his appointment of Romdhane is “historic” and described it as an “honor for Tunisia and an homage to Tunisian women.”

However, the appointment garnered mixed reactions.

The Tunisian Association for Democratic Women welcomed the appointment, and the president of the association said her organization had demanded the appointment of a woman as PM in the first meeting with President Saied.

Meanwhile, Political scientist Slaheddine Jourchi told AFP: “When we look at the CV of this lady, who is a geologist without other specializations or experience in sensitive roles, I don’t know how well she will be able to tackle these enormous, complex issues.”

Jourchi added: “[Saied] “has avoided nominating a politician or anyone with a minimum of political experience. He doesn’t want a rival or anyone with political opinions, who could enter discussions with him over the important decisions to come.”

Fida Hamammi, the Middle East and North Africa advocacy coordinator at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, an activist group, wrote on Twitter: “When the PM position is completely devoid of any powers, when it’s limited to being a face and an executor of a man’s instructions then a woman can take it! That’s the only symbolism there is here, and it makes me sick. There is nothing to celebrate here.”

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