TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's largest political party chose a veteran from the country's former dictatorship as its candidate for prime minister Monday and he began work immediately on forming a coalition government.
Habib Essid, 65, was asked by the newly elected president to form a coalition and name a Cabinet over the next month. He previously held several posts under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, including in the Interior Ministry, which manages the police. After the 2011 revolution that overthrew Ben Ali, Essid also served as interior minister in one of the transitional governments.
Tunisia completed its political transition with a string of elections in 2014, with the most votes going to Nida Tunis, a party that includes many members of the old regime and has promised stability after a transition marked by unrest.
President Beji Caid Essebsi, who formed the party, was inaugurated last week. Nida Tunis must form a coalition with several other parties in the parliament to gain a majority.
"From today, we will start the consultations with the parties, national institutions and civil society," Essid said.
U.S. President Barack Obama called President Essebsi Monday to congratulate him on his victory in the presidential election and invite him to visit Washington, the White House said.
It said Obama commended the Tunisians for the spirit of peaceful compromise that has prevailed throughout their historic democratic transition of the last four years and underscored the United States' readiness to assist the incoming government.
Tunisia's moderate Islamists, who won the election immediately after the 2011 revolution, remain the second largest party in the parliament but are not expected to be part of the coalition.