Tunisia's labour union urges president to announce new government

Kais Saied said he will govern alongside new prime minister, but is yet to name one

Tunisia's powerful labour union has urged the president to rapidly announce a new government that should be small and led by an experienced prime minister, after he seized executive control in a move his opponents called a coup.

President Kais Saied has defended his actions as constitutional and said he will govern alongside a new prime minister during an emergency period, but nine days after his intervention, he has yet to name one.

"We can't wait 30 days for the announcement of a government," said Sami Tahri, a spokesman for the UGTT union, one of Tunisia's most powerful political forces.

UGTT chief Noureddine Taboubi said the cabinet should be small and headed by somebody with experience, sending a positive message to both Tunisians and international lenders.

"We must speed up the formation of the government to be able to face economic and health challenges," he said.

Mr Saied's sudden intervention on July 25 appeared to have widespread public support, but raised fears for the future of the democratic system that Tunisia adopted after its 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring.

On Tuesday, Mr Saied removed Tunisia's ambassador to Washington, the latest in a string of dismissals of senior and mid-ranking officials over the past week, including several ministers. He did not immediately name a replacement.

He is also still to announce a roadmap to end an emergency period that he initially set at one month, but later announced could be two.

A source close to the presidential palace in Carthage said Mr Saied might announce the new prime minister soon. Sources have told Reuters that Central Bank Governor Marouane Abassi and two former finance ministers, Hakim Hammouda and Nizar Yaich, are contenders.

Mr Saied's most powerful organised opponent, the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, has meanwhile been riven by internal splits over its response to the crisis and its longer-term strategy and leadership.

Tunisians had over the past decade grown ever more frustrated by economic stagnation, corruption and bickering among a political class that often seemed more focused on its own narrow interests than on national problems.

The coronavirus pandemic ripped through Tunisia over the past two months as the state vaccination effort crawled, leading at one point to the worst infection and death rates in Africa. Pandemic counter-measures last year hammered the economy.

On Monday, Mr Saied replaced the finance, agriculture and telecoms ministers after having said that "wrong economic choices" had cost the country.

On Sunday he said there were contacts with "friendly countries" for financial assistance.

Updated: August 4th 2021, 4:47 AM