Yesterday, 26 February, Tunisia’s parliament began debating the new coalition government, after months of political wrangling that has slowed the north African country’s efforts to tackle persistent economic problems. Elyes Fakhfakh, prime minister designate by President Kais Said, has brought into his cabinet parties from across the political spectrum. The House of People’s Representatives, Tunisia’s parliament, voted confidence on Thursday at dawn, in Elyes Fakhfakh’s government with 129 votes for, 77 against and 1 abstention. Fakhfakh is hopeful his government will build “a new and genuine national unity based on a new contract”. A government that recognizes the importance of unity in service of the country, and one that believes in Tunisia’s revolution.
Fakhfakh unveiled his cabinet line-up on the 19th of February, consisting of 29 ministers and 2 Secretaries of State. 15 members of his proposed government are “independent”, while the remaining portfolios are divided between the Ennahdha party (6) the Democratic Current / Attayar (3), the Echaab Movement (2) and Tahaya Tounes (2). Additionally one ministerial portfolio has been given to the National Reform parliamentary bloc bloc and one to the Al Badil party. The affiliation of the Secretary of State for Water Resources has not been specified.
The shifting role of Ennahda in Tunisia’s transition
Fakhfakh’s new government of 32 members is a departure from Jemli’s previous efforts to compose a 43-member strong technocratic cabinet. In Fakhfakh’s new formation, Ennahdha has been allocated six portfolios. Initially, Ennahdha said they would reject a government that would exclude some parties from the formation, among which is the media magnate Nabil Karoui’s Heart of Tunisia (Qalb Tounes). Though, last week Ennahdha changed position and said it would back Fakhfakh’s proposed government. The leader of Ennahdha was positive about the lengthy negotiations as it could only benefit the political disagreements peacefully amongst the many different parties. He stated negotiations would help overcome both populism and political tensions. According to Ennahdha the elections have indicated that Tunisia’s transition towards democracy cannot be undone.
The new government’s economic and social priorities
Elyes Fakhfakh identified seven major economic and social priorities that top his government’s work plan. After many years of low growth, persistent unemployment, big government deficits, mounting debt, high inflation, a weak currency and deteriorating public services, these seven priorities covering both large economic sectors and the support of all social categories must strengthen the country. The following priorities have been drawn up:
- The government will first deal with countering trafficking activities, with a special emphasis on the smuggling of subsidized commodities.
- Urgent support will be provided to the institutions that constitute the pillar of the Tunisian economy. The government will stand with investors and exporters by encouraging and supporting them. They also intend to simplify procedures and administrative complications.
- Responding clearly, fast, strong and deterrent with regards to political corruption, meaning a zero tolerance policy. The government is determined to establish a sustainable culture of integrity and all sorts of tampering with public funds will be addressed.
- Financial resources will be mobilized, whether in global markets or from international financial institutions while pledging to stop the borrowing strategy that is not directed to investment.
- Priority concerns the need to preserve the value of the national currency and the reduction of inflation to avoid monetary solutions that harm Tunisia’s economic growth.
- Handling the mining basin and phosphate file.
- Find solutions to suspend files that have caused great suffering to many social groups, especially public facilities workers, professors and substitute teachers.