Tunisian PM-designate to form government without political parties

Move by Hichem Mechichi is likely to anger Ennahda party

epa08595835 Tunisian Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi briefs the media about his proposed government list in Carthage, east of the capital Tunis, Tunisia, 10 August 2020. Mechichi was tasked with forming a new government following the resignation of Elyes Fakhfakh's cabinet on 15 July 2020. Mechichi has until 25 August to form a government and present it to the Assembly of People's Representatives.  EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA
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Tunisia's prime minister-designate says he will form a purely technocratic government without political parties after disputes over the formation of the country's next administration.

Hichem Mechichi, the former interior minister, said there were too many disagreements between the main factions in Tunisia.

The decision will probably put him in dispute with the Ennahda party, the largest political group in parliament, with 52 of the 217 seats.

The group has already announced it will oppose a non-political government.

But the proposal for an administartion of independent technocrats will win support from the powerful UGTT trade union and some other parties, including Tahya Tounes and Dustoury El Hor.

Mr Mechichi said that the government’s focus would mainly be on social hardship and the weak economy, explaining that "while the political dispute continues, some Tunisians have not found drinking water".

Protests have erupted in Tunisia's interior this year over widespread unemployment, lack of development and poor public services in health, electricity and water.

Mr Mechichi, who was proposed by President Kais Saied last month to succeed Elyes Fakhfakh, said his priority would also be to rescue the struggling public finances.

Mr Fakhfakh resigned over allegations of a conflict of interest.

Tunisia is struggling to revive its collapsed economy since a 2011 uprising that ended the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The government said last month it had asked four creditor countries to delay debt repayments, as it announced more pessimistic economic and budget forecasts for 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The request on debt repayments underscores the dire condition of public finances, already a source of concern before the virus crisis pummelled the global economy.

Mr Mechichi, 46, an independent, has this month to form a government capable of winning a confidence vote in Parliament by a simple majority, or the president will dissolve Parliament for another election.