New Tunisia PM unveils cabinet without Islamists


TUNIS: Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid presented a cabinet line-up to parliament on Friday that included no members of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party which led the former government.

Essid’s government will be the first since landmark parliamentary and presidential elections last year that were the first freely contested ones in the history of the North African country.

There had been conflicting reports right up until the line-up was unveiled over whether Ennahda, which had dominated interim administrations since the Arab Spring revolution of 2011, would join the new government.

The anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party of President Beji Caid Essebsi won the largest number seats in October’s general election but fell short of a majority, forcing it to look for coalition partners.

Ennahda, which came second, had not excluded joining a unity government under Essid, a former interior minister who is himself an independent.

Nidaa Tounes secretary general, Taieb Baccouche, was named foreign minister and the ministries of health and transport also went to members of the president’s party.

But other posts went to independents or nominees from smaller parties.

Essid handed the interior ministry to Mohamed Najem Gharsalli, a former provincial governor, and the defence portfolio to Farhat Horchani who ran an association for constitutional rights.

His nominee for finance minister, Lassad Zarrouk, is a former chairman of national health insurance fund CNAM.

The tourism and sports ministries went to the Free Patriotic Union party of businessman Slim Riahi, owner of Tunis football side Club Africain.

Nine women were among the 39 nominees in a country which has much the most liberal gender equality laws of any Arab country.

No date was immediately announced for when the line-up would be put to the vote.

Two other parties are not represented in the government — the far-left Popular Front and the liberal Afek Tounes party.



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