Tunisia premier faces parliamentary rejection of new government

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 26, 2015 5:38 AM

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian Prime Minister-designate Habib Essid's new cabinet faced rejection by parliament on Monday after another party said it would oppose his choice of ministers in a vote to ratify the country's new government.

A rejection by parliament would be the first defeat for the secular party Nidaa Tounes since it won October legislative elections. President Beji Caid Essebsi would then have to appoint a new premier to form a cabinet.

Tunisia's politics have been dominated by negotiations and compromise deals between secular and Islamist leaders after the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and brought free elections and a new constitution.

But the new Nidaa Tounes-led government will need strong backing from parliament as it prepares to crack down on Islamist militants and make sensitive cuts in public spending demanded by international lenders.

Essid last week selected ministers from Nidaa Tounes, the leading party in parliament, and other, smaller partners. No positions went to other major parties, including Islamists Ennahda.

Ennahda and leftist party Popular Front have already rejected his cabinet, and on Monday a third party, Afek Tounes, also said it would oppose Essid's government in a vote to ratify his choices planned for Tuesday.

"We have decided to vote against Essid's government because it is not a representative government, it's not a government that includes all the parties that won in the elections," Afek Tounes leader Rim Majoub told Reuters.

Delegates from Afek Tounes, who are nominal allies to Nidaa Tounes, had walked out of the negotiations last week to form the new cabinet.

In the 217-seat parliament, Nidaa Tounes holds 86 seats and has some backing from the liberal, secular UPL party, which has 16 seats. But without support from other parties or defectors, Essid would fall short of the 109-seat majority needed to ratify the cabinet.

Ennahda holds 69 seats in the assembly, Popular Front 15 and Afek Tounes eight.

Ennahda, which governed in the first Islamist-led government after the 2011 uprising, had said it was open to a unity government with Nidaa Tounes to improve stability.

Nidaa Tounes itself is an coalition of former Ben Ali officials, leftists and independents. But its hardliners were opposed to joining with Ennahda, which they blame for unrest when the Islamists were in government after 2011.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Larry King)