Tunisia's new government faces tough task

25 January 2015

Newly elected cabinet will need to ensure it can compromise to implement policies

In appointing the new cabinet, Tunisia’s Prime Minister Habib Essid crossed a minefield of associations on a small political scene.

Following the criteria needed for consensus – no figures from the regime of former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, no connections with Islamist parties and not too much influence from Nidaa Tounes – has resulted in a cabinet that excludes many of the biggest political players.

The first test will be a vote of confidence in the People’s Representative Assembly. Members of Nidaa Tounes and the Free Patriotic Union (FPU) will be in favour, guaranteeing 102 votes out of 216. After choosing not to include the Islamist party Ennahda in his government, Essid may have to convince multiple smaller parties to support his choices.

The time limit for Essid to gain approval for the cabinet can be extended until 5 March. If he fails to receive enough support by this date, a new prime minister will be appointed and given a month to form a government. A failure to form a government for a second time would result in new elections and further instability for the country.

Tunisia’s first experience with the uncertainties of democracy and competitive elections has wavered between negotiated consensus and bitter disputes.

In this case, parties will have to compromise and approve this government, or the next put before them, even if it contains politicians tainted by their past associations.

Continued delays in tackling the country’s deep-seated economic problems will only exacerbate the economic stagnation. A working government is the only way to implement an effective reform and investment programme.

But in searching for consensus, Essid may have created a technocrat government with no political authority, which will struggle to impose its programme on other branches of government.

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