Tunisia’s president names new government as fiscal crisis looms

Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied, has appointed a new government by decree, 11 weeks after he ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament to assume near total control.

The prime minister, Najla Bouden, appointed by Saied last month, said the government’s main priority would be tackling corruption.

Though Tunisia faces a looming fiscal crisis, she did not mention any programme of economic changes.

“I am confident we will move from frustration to hope … I warn all who will threaten the state,” Saied said at the ceremony.

Bouden kept the interim finance and foreign ministers Saied had already installed, while naming Taoufik Charfeddine as interior minister.

Najla Bouden
Najla Bouden. Photograph: Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty

The appointment of a government has long been demanded by domestic political players and foreign donors, along with a clear declaration by Saied of a timeline to exit the crisis.

The president’s moves have cast doubt on Tunisia’s democratic gains since its 2011 revolution that inspired the Arab spring, and have also delayed efforts to seek a financial rescue package from the International Monetary Fund.

Tunisia faces a crisis in public finances and the IMF has previously indicated it will negotiate only on the basis of government proposals for credible reforms.

Bouden’s appointment prompted the biggest single-day gains for Tunisian bonds after Saied’s intervention, which had triggered a significant sell-off and added to the cost of insuring its debt.

Saied moved to cement his position last month, brushing aside most of the constitution to say he could rule by decree and make the government responsible to himself, rather than to parliament.

He installed several members of the new cabinet as acting ministers soon after his July intervention, as he purged numerous senior officials from the government, regional positions and the security forces.

Saied has frequently cited public backing for his moves against the political elite and a system of power-sharing between president and parliament that he says has thwarted the popular will.

On Sunday, at least 6,000 people demonstrated in central Tunis against Saied’s power grab. The protest was dwarfed by a demonstration in favour of Saied at the beginning of the month.

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