- Prior to his appointment, Mechichi had been serving as the country’s Interior Minister.
- The new prime minister now has a month to form a government that can obtain the simple majority vote in Tunisia’s Parliament.
- The former premier, Elyes Fakhfakh, resigned under conflict of interest allegations.
The President of Tunisia, Kais Saied, on Saturday appointed Hichem Mechichi as the country’s new prime minister. In his acceptance speech, the 46-year-old new premier has promised to respond to the social and economic demands of the population, which have been the main causes of numerous protests.
Mechichi stated that he will form a government capable of meeting the legitimate aspirations and demands of all Tunisians. Prior to his appointment, Mechichi had been serving as the country’s Interior Minister.
“I will work to form a government that meets the aspirations of all Tunisians and to respond to their legitimate demands,” the incoming premier said. Mechchi has not yet, however, secured majority support for his government in the country’s parliament.
The new prime minister now has a month to form a government that can obtain the simple majority vote in Tunisia’s Parliament. Otherwise, President Saied will have to dissolve the legislative body and call for new elections, to be organized within three months.
Mechichi is an independent. For this reason, he had not been proposed by any party to hold the position of the prime minister. However, he is President Saied’s close confidant, and at one point, he served as the President’s legal adviser.
Mechichi has a doctorate in political science and law, but some analysts have said that his figure lacks an economic background at a time when international creditors are asking Tunis to adopt difficult reforms. The already complex situation in the country has recently been aggravated by the outbreak of the coronavirus therein, which has negatively impacted the country’s economic situation.
For this year, Tunisia expects an economic contraction of 6.5% and a deficit of 7% of GDP. Tunisia’s difficulties have led to numerous protests in which the population has complained of economic stagnation, a general decline in living conditions, and the worsening of public services. These problems are accompanied by an unstable political framework.
Mechichi will replace the former premier, Elyes Fakhfakh, who resigned from office on July 15, after Ennahda, the moderate Islamic party that holds the majority, decided to withdraw it’s trust in the premier due to charges of conflict of interest against him. This was due to the fact that some companies, of which Fakhfakh owned shares, were awarded state contracts worth about $15 million.
In addition to the Prime Minister’s resignation, the Tunisian Parliament has been undergoing further tensions since the end of June, when the conservative Free Destourian Party accused the president of the single-chamber assembly, Rached Ghannouchi, who is also head of Ennahda, of having ties to terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
For this, on June 16, the Free Destourian Party had asked for an investigation into the activities of the Islamic party. Later, on July 12, a blockade of five Tunisian parties, led by the Free Destourian Party, therefore requested a vote of no confidence against Ghannouchi.
At the moment, Tunisia is led by a coalition government, voted in October 6, in which the largest party is Ennahda. The Tunisian executive was appointed on February 27. However, internal ideological rifts, especially with regard to state finances and debt, have led to a fragile balance within it.