Hichem Mechichi has explained that the next Executive must focus on tackling the country's economic and social crisis

Tunisia's new prime minister wants to form a technocratic government away from the Islamists

AFP/FETHI BELAID - Tunisian Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi

This is not the time for grandstanding or great ideals. Tunisia has a difficult few years ahead of it economically, and the pandemic has hardened the scenario for this small North African country. The new prime minister, appointed after the resignation of Elyes Fakhfakh due to a corruption scandal, has promised on Monday that the next government will be technocratic in character, according to the Europa Press agency. Hichem Mechichi explained that the next government will focus on strengthening the economy and tackling social discontent, which materialised in strong street protests at the end of June in the southern city of Tataouine, where unemployment is double the national average. 

The words of Mechichi, an independent who has not declared his political affiliation to any party, have not been well received by the Ennahda Islamist party, the largest political group in the Tunisian parliament with 54 of the 217 deputies in the chamber, which has announced that it will oppose the formation of a non-political government. However, Mechichi's proposal has been welcomed by the powerful UGTT union and other parties such as Tahya Tounes and Dustoury el Hor. 

The high fragmentation of the Tunisian Parliament, with nearly twenty parties and numerous independents with their own agenda, makes the governance of this country very complicated. Elyes Fakhfakh's executive was supported by a weak five-party coalition that was complicated by allegations of corruption against the prime minister by the National Anti-Corruption Authority. Fakhfakh denied the charges and threatened to reshuffle the cabinet and remove the Ennahda members who had attacked him virulently. 

Parlamento

Mechichi has insisted that the priority of politicians must go beyond parliamentary quarrels. "While the political dispute is going on, some Tunisians have not found any drinking water," he said in a statement published by the British online magazine Middle East Online. The protests that have taken place throughout the year in the interior of the country, although they intensified in June, called for the improvement of public health services and water and electricity installations. 

Mechichi, 46, is not having an easy time achieving his goal and gaining the confidence of the Tunisian Parliament. If he does not succeed, President Kaïes Said will have to dissolve the chamber and call new elections. "The consultations I have carried out in the last few days have allowed me to understand that the differences between the political parties are important and that it is impossible to find a formula to unite them all within the same government and to guarantee political stability," the Prime Minister said in declarations collected by Europa Press. 

Tunisia's economy has not yet managed to revive after the political changes brought about by the 2011 revolution, which put an end to the tyranny of Ben Ali. Tourism is the grip that successive Tunisian governments have tried to grab, but the security crisis of 2015 and this year's health crisis have frustrated the expectations of a sector with great potential to compete in the Mediterranean. Last month Tunisia asked four creditor countries to delay debt collection after revising their economic and budgetary forecasts downwards for 2020 due to the pandemic.

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