Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi named 12 new ministers yesterday in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject new blood into his government amid rising political tensions and an unprecedented economic crisis.
Mechichi named Walid Dhabi as the new interior minister, having this month sacked Taoufik Charfeddine, who is close to President Kais Saied, a move underscoring tensions between the country’s two most powerful leaders. Saied and Mechichi are at odds over their respective powers and political alliances, jeopardising the stability required to push through much-needed reforms.
Hedi Khairi was named health minister following criticism over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with the official date for the start of vaccinations in Tunisia still unknown.
Disputes have also shaken the ranks of coalition partners supporting the government, with the Karama party refusing to vote on the reshuffle and threatening to leave the coalition.
Mechichi named Youssef Zouaghi as justice minister, Sofien Ben Touns as minister of energy and Oussama Kheriji as minister of agriculture.
“The next stage is full of challenges, including the necessary reforms for the economy, which require increased efficiency and harmony”, Mechichi said.
Although Tunisia became a democracy after its 2011 uprising, its economy has deteriorated, the country verges on bankruptcy and political leaders appear paralysed.
The 2019 election delivered a bitterly fragmented parliament unable to produce a stable government, with parties bickering over cabinet seats and putting off big decisions.
Meanwhile, Tunisian police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the northern city of Siliana on Friday after a policeman beat a shepherd, witnesses said, in an incident that sparked anger, as the country celebrates the tenth anniversary of the transition to a full democracy, Reuters reported.
Hundreds of protesters burned wheels, blocked roads, and threw stones at the police, who followed the protesters and fired gas, witnesses added.
In the coastal city of Sousse, night clashes took place between police and youths who threw stones at the security forces, who fired tear gas.
Local media said a small protest also took place in Karm area in the capital Tunis and that police arrested some protesters.
A decade ago, massive protests against corruption, injustice and the repressive regime toppled the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, after a fruit seller set himself ablaze in the central town of Sidi Bouzid after an altercation with a policewoman.
The Tunisian revolution in 2011 inspired a wave of revolt in Arab countries as people rose up to demand democracy.
A video posted on social media showed a policeman scolding and pushing a shepherd whose sheep had entered the governorate headquarters.
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