Tunisian leader appoints new prime minister with little experience in times of crisis
TUNIS, Sept. 29 (Reuters) – President Kais Saied on Wednesday appointed an inexperienced geologist to government as Tunisia’s first female prime minister, in the midst of a crisis following her seizure of sweeping powers and with public finances close to breaking point.
He asked Najla Bouden Romdhane, a little-known geophysics professor who implemented World Bank projects at the education ministry, to form a government as quickly as possible, sparking the prices of Tunisian bonds.
Elected in 2019, Saied has come under increasing national and international pressure to appoint a government after sacking the prime minister, suspending parliament and assuming executive power in July in moves his enemies call a coup.
Last week he suspended most of the constitution, claiming he could rule by decree for an “exceptional” period with no definite end, questioning democratic gains after the 2011 Tunisian revolution that sparked the protests of the government. Arab Spring.
Speaking in an online video, Saied said Bouden’s appointment honored Tunisian women and asked her to propose a cabinet in the hours or days to come “because we’ve wasted a lot of time.”
The new government must fight corruption and meet the demands and dignity of Tunisians in all areas, including health, transport and education, he added.
Women have rarely occupied high-level political positions in Arab countries. In Tunisia, Saied also appointed a woman, Nadia Akacha, chief of staff, his closest and most powerful assistant.
Bouden is likely to have less direct power than previous prime ministers under the 2014 constitution, however, after Saied said last week that during the emergency the government would be accountable to the president.
Much of the political elite, including most parties in the suspended parliament and the powerful UGTT union, have said they oppose Saied’s takeover and major Western donors have urged him to restore normal constitutional order.
Tunisia faces a looming public finance crisis after years of economic stagnation exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and internal political struggles.
Government bonds, made their best gains in a year on news after a massive selloff since Saied intervened, as well as pressure on the cost of default insurance.
“The key is the possibility of IMF support,” said Viktor Szabo, emerging markets portfolio manager at ABRDN in London.
The new government urgently needs financial support for the budget and debt repayment after Saied’s changes suspended talks with the International Monetary Fund.
“It is a positive sign that a woman will lead the government. I hope she will immediately start saving the country from the specter of bankruptcy. She should quickly address the problems of Tunisians,” Amin Ben Salem said. , banker in Tunis.
There was no immediate reaction from the union or political parties to Bouden’s appointment. However, parliamentarians can challenge the legality of any government appointed without the consent of the suspended chamber.
The presidency said Saied had spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and reiterated “his determination to enforce the law and enforce its full respect.”
A senior Tunisian politician told Reuters last week that the new prime minister would face an intimidating inbox as most of the government’s work has come to a standstill in the past two months and a wide range of files require attention. urgent attention.
Saied replaced many civil servants across the administration, but was committed to defending rights and freedoms. He said he would appoint a committee to amend the 2014 constitution.
Reporting by Tarek Amara; Additional reporting by Marc Jones in London; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean and Catherine Evans
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