No Islamists in Tunisia’s newly announced minority government

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid announced a new minority government Friday that excludes most of the major players on the political scene, including Islamist and leftist parties.

The big winner in last year’s elections was the nationalist Nida Tunis party, but with only 86 of the 217 seats, it had promised to form a broad governing coalition to see the country out of its economic crisis. However, the 24 new ministers presented Friday appeared to come from only two parties that may not have enough seats to survive a no-confidence vote.

The cabinet includes 10 ministers from Nida Tunis, including the foreign minister, and three from the Free Patriotic Union Party, which holds 16 seats. Together the two parties will have less than half of the seats in parliament, which means they may have difficulty implementing the necessary reforms to tackle Tunisia’s titanic economic problems like high inflation and unemployment.

The liberal Afek Tounes party abruptly pulled out of the coalition because it apparently did not receive enough portfolios.

Ever since Tunisians overthrew their dictator in 2011 and kicked off the region-wide pro-democracy uprisings, their transition to democracy has been closely watched.

“The government will be one for all Tunisians and its task will be to realize the objectives of the revolution, which are freedom, dignity and overcoming the challenges facing the country, particularly economic development,” Essid said.

The new government includes nine women, the most since the country gained independence from the French in 1956.

Nida Tunis’ main competitor, the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party holds 69 seats and is not part of the government, nor is the leftist Popular Front, with 15 seats.

Ennahda spokesman Ziad Laadhari said the party would meet to decide what to do in the upcoming confidence vote.