PM’s cabinet reshuffle irks Tunisian president

PM Youssef Chahed announced major cabinet reshuffle on Monday in move ostensibly aimed at boosting economy

PM's cabinet reshuffle irks Tunisian president

By Adel al-Thabeti, Yamna al-Salimi and Saif al-Din bin Mahjoub

TUNIS

A cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has displeased Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, according to a presidential spokeswoman. 

“President Essebsi disapproves of the cabinet reshuffle,” spokeswoman Saida Garrach told the local Mosaique radio station late Monday. 

She went on to describe Chahed’s reshuffle announcement as “hasty”. 

“The president was not consulted about the reshuffle beforehand; he was informed of the move very late,” Garrach said. 

On Monday, Chahed appointed 13 new government ministers in a cabinet reshuffle ostensibly aimed at boosting the country’s troubled economy. 

The reshuffle included the appointment of Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as tourism minister. 

“This reshuffle is intended to make the government more effective and end the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis,” Chahed said in a statement. 

The Ennahda movement, for its part, which holds 68 out of 217 parliamentary seats, welcomed the reshuffle.

Ennahda spokesman Imad al-Khumeiri told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that his movement would vote in favor of the reshuffle when it is referred to parliament.

“We hope this government will respond to our requests for economic and social reform and development… and work towards successful legislative and presidential polls in 2019,” he said.

The Nida Tounes party, meanwhile, which holds 51 parliamentary seats, questioned the constitutionality of Monday’s reshuffle.

At a Tuesday press conference, party Secretary-General Salim Riahi claimed the reshuffle had been “marred by procedural errors”.

“The law does not allow the prime minister to carry out such changes without first consulting with the president of the republic and subjecting the move to a cabinet discussion,” Riahi told reporters.

He went on to urge President Essebsi to intervene to “correct the error”.

He added that his party was relying on Nida Tounes-affiliated lawmakers to thwart what he described as a “coup” by the prime minister.

Chahed’s government has come under fire in recent months over the country’s deteriorating economic conditions, with some quarters calling for the prime minister to resign. 

In July, Essebsi called on Chahed to step down — or face a confidence vote — if the country’s political and economic crisis was not resolved. 

Two months earlier, Essebsi’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi — who leads Nidaa Tounes — called for Chahed’s dismissal, saying his government “did not represent” the party. 

Chahed was appointed premier by Essebsi in 2016.

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