Tunisian PM appoints new ministers in cabinet reshuffle

Hichem Mechichi names a dozen new cabinet members, including interior, justice, energy and health ministers.

Tunisian designated Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi delivers his speech at the parliament before a confidence vote in Tunis, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Riadh Dridi)
Mechichi had previously sacked the environment and culture ministers [File: AP Photo]

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has appointed 12 new ministers in a cabinet reshuffle announced amid rising political tensions and a major economic crisis.

Mechichi on Saturday named Walid Dhabi as the new interior minister replacing Taoufik Charfeddine, who is seen as close to President Kais Saied and was sacked earlier this month.

The move underscores tensions between the country’s two most powerful leaders as 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.

Tunisia has so far recorded more than 175,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 5,528 related deaths, while the official date for the start of vaccinations in the country is 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.

‘Next stage is full of challenges’

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,” said Mechichi, who had previously sacked the environment and culture ministers.

Chiheb Ben Ahmed was named environment minister and Youssef bin Ibrahim was appointed culture minister.

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.

Source: News Agencies